Have you ever switched from a name brand medication to a cheaper generic medication and had some problems with the adjustment? Maybe you got a few headaches, maybe you broke out in acne, or maybe you felt like your emotions were on a roller coaster? Although side effects can happen with any medication, our patients commonly notice it when going from a name brand version of birth control pills to a generic alternative. Why does this happen?
When the makers of a birth control pill receive their patent for the formula, they are receiving a patent for a certain amount of estrogen and a certain amount of progesterone, and they are the only ones who can sell that pill with that formula for 5 years. After the five years are up, other companies can make a generic alternative. Unfortunately, the FDA gives generic medications a 20% leeway in active ingredients– this means that they can put anywhere from 80-100% of the stated active ingredients in the generic medication and call it good.
Let’s say your name brand name birth control pill had 25mg of estrogen and 5mg of progestrone in each pill (obviously, these numbers are highly exaggerated). Because of the 20% leeway, you switch to generic and now you’re getting only 20mg of estrogen and 4mg of progesterone. That might not sound like that much of a difference, but it might be enough to completely throw off your hormonal balance. Your body suddenly has a drop in estrogen and a drop in progesterone, and you may feel terrible. Some women are able to handle this change well, but others have a rough time. That’s when we can use small amounts of supplemental estrogen to help you get back to the hormone levels you are comfortable with.
If you are on name brand birth control pills but are making the switch to generic, let us know and we can make a game plan together.