Home, Mind

What’s the Story with Generic Antidepressants? Aren’t they All The Same?!

But first, some housekeeping. You may (or may not) be thinking; why bother going to the bother of bothering to build a website, launch a website, and then not populate that website with any new content for three whole days? Well, dear reader (hopefully there’s one of you still reading), I’m knee deep in excel spreadsheets courtesy of the glamorous world of copywriting. Hey, it’s not sexy, but mammy’s gots ta pay the bills.

Clarification that yours truly is not a slovenly lazy sort dispensed, let’s tackle that headline and – as ever – this is only one person’s experience. If you’ve had a different experience, feel free to share below.

I started taking antidepressants a year ago this week. Child number 2 was six weeks old and had chronic colic, reflux, screamed constantly, the usual. The doctor took one look at me and said “let’s nip this in the bud, shall we. I can see where this is going.” She wrote a script for Lustral and that was that.

lustral-pfizer-tablets-the-brand-name-of-sertraline-ssri-anti-depressant-FWC4T7-1

It’s OK. She knew my mental history and had referred me for CBT the year previously, so she knew the medication wouldn’t just be a plaster; I’d been practising mindfulness, exercising, and meditation along with the CBT – but, let’s face it, after months of no sleep and recovering from a section with a three-year-old in tow – there isn’t a whole lot of time for self maintenance. Throw a history of anxiety and panic disorder into the mix and that’s a shitbomb waiting to implode right there.

After attending my trusted local chemist, I started on the Lustral. It was pricy, but it was the one recommended by the GP. A month later, I happened to be passing by a pharmacy chain. Upon opening the bag later that day, it wasn’t Lustral they had dispensed, rather a generic form of sertraline called Serlan. The chemist didn’t even ask, but – hey – it was cheaper. We’re talking €20 odd quid cheaper.

SerlanBag

The following month, I went back to my local chemist. He asked if I wanted Lustral or the generic. When queried, he confirmed that they were basically the same, and it was the generic he stocked as it was – in his opinion – closest to the original.

To be honest, I was happy out on Serlan. Functioning, anyway. The children stayed alive, and that’s a priority. Then, last month, I nipped into one of the bigger pharmacy chains in a shopping centre where ‘Serlan’ was specifically requested. When they handed the bag over, I was quick to confirm – “It’s Serlan, yes?” The chemist confirmed it was.

I really should start checking my pharmacy bags at the counter, because this time it was yet another generic. It did not say Serlan, but Stertraline Krka. But if the chemist doesn’t seem to even note the difference there mustn’t be one, right?

Serlan

Laaarge negatory. A few days in, and even fighting gravity was too much to bear. Coupled with the sweats, dizziness, and the overriding feeling of despair, apathy and raging agitation, something was not right. But you’re meant to let these things settle, another couple of days, I’d be fine, right?

Nope. That’s when the headaches started. Shooting pains behind my right ear, and hot flashes coursing around the scalp. Two weeks in and the husband took me aside (as he does) and confirmed that I was being a complete pain in the hole – like, even more than usual. “You’re not yourself, Sheena.” Whenever that’s uttered, it’s the alarm bell clanging.

So, why had I stuck with the second generic for so long when it clearly wasn’t agreeing with me? Well, denial: a qualified pharmacist had all but insisted that it was exactly the same thing – without actually asking if it was OK to just switch the brand of my brain medication. Because, you know, it’s just MY. BRAIN. Generic painkillers are one thing, but being so laissez faire with medication devised to alter chemical imbalances in the brain is another fucking postcode entirely.


In said pharmacist’s defence, it doesn’t specifically highlight any wildly differing ingredients in the spiel contained in their respective boxes – but something was very, very different… MY. BRAIN.

For further information as to why large pharmacy chains are choosing profits over people’s brains, make your way over to The Guardian

P.S. You’ve got to laugh at the leaflet’s definition of depression. One can assume it wasn’t written by anyone who’s ever experienced anything close to it. It’d be far more poetic for starters.

Depression

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