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J Psychosoc Nurs Ment Health Serv. 2010 Feb;48(2):13-6. doi: 10.3928/02793695-20100108-98.

When is a "generic" medication not really a generic?

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  • 1University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


The distinction between pharmaceutical equivalent and pharmaceutical alternative drug products can lead to considerable confusion, especially with the proliferation of various branded, alternative, and generic medications that contain the same active ingredient. To illustrate this problem, four examples of medication products containing the active ingredients paroxetine, venlafaxine, bupropion, and valproate will be described. Understanding these differences is important for nurses providing patient care. Only generic drugs can be freely substituted for a brand-name product. Switching to a pharmaceutical alternative requires a change in prescription. Finally, the use, labeling, and cost of branded, alternative, and generic medications may be different.

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