Generic drugs, which account for more than 70 percent of prescriptions, provide the same health benefits as brand-name drugs but often vary in color and shape. Now, a new study suggests that generic medications that differ in color from their brand-name counterpart may make people less likely to continue taking them.
Researchers from Brigham and Women s Hospital in Boston used a national database of filled prescriptions from 2001 to 2006 to assess the compliance with therapy among patients taking anti-epileptic drugs. When they found patients had discontinued their medication, they looked to see if the prior prescriptions had varied in shape or color before the patient stopped filling prescriptions for their medication.
Fifty-three percent of the patients with epilepsy and 27 percent of people taking the same prescriptions for other reasons were more likely to stop taking their pills once the color changed, according to the study published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross experienced such problems with patients when he was in practice, although not to this extent: When I would prescribe, or especially give out samples of brand-name drugs, the pills would be easily identifiable, often with the drug s name inscribed. The generic variant most often was nondescript, without identifiable markings, generally round rather than geometric. These variations minor to doctors, perhaps made a big difference to patients used to a certain appearance of their medication, even though the generic is commonly cheaper. This factor should not be ignored, especially given the rather impressive results of the current study. Maybe requiring generics to resemble their brand-name models would have a significant benefit.