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Generic Drug Confusion

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73-year-old Mort Allen takes medication for high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. Managing all those prescriptions can be confusing at times.

"His one drug, it's either blue or white, it changes colors, and so you don't really know."

Many of his pills are generic which can vary in color and shape from brand names.

Now a new study from Brigham and Women's Hospital shows when pills look different patients are 50% more likely to stop taking them.

"So if you're used to taking these guys, and if we give you this, you're going to be obviously confused. You're going to say what is this white pill, mine is oblong," says Dr. Ike PharmD.

Generic medications account for over 70% of prescriptions filled in the U.S. Doctors say it's important that patients understand just because your drugs look different, they're still the same.

"During consult we'll tell them there's a difference in shape and size. In addition we put a little sticker on bottle saying the same exact information."

Patients should also talk to their doctor and pharmacist if they have any questions.

Allen keeps the line of communication open with his pharmacist. But with so many medications to keep track of he knows he has to pay close attention.

"Little tray things-- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday-- you put one in each one."

He wants to make sure he's taking the right drugs at the right time.

To make things less confusing, the study recommends the Food and Drug Administration reconsider its current regulatory policy and require that companies make brand name drugs and generic versions that look more alike.

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