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When the brand means the brand

Posted Sep 01 2011 12:06am

Let's consider brands, not as in corporate branding or even personal branding, both kinds ubiquitous in this Age of Labeling. (A student once asked me if he published in a low-level magazine, would that damage his brand?)
Let's talk about Effexor , the brand. There's a debate about whether there's a difference between generics and brands. They're supposed to be the same, right? But there are always some differences. If you want to read some patient testimonies, you can go here . The FDA says there's no important difference between brands and generic.
All I can say is that one kind of generic Atarax helps control my itching and one does not, and one brand of generic Buspar (with the rounded corners) helps with my anxiety and one (sharp corners) does not. I'm a sensitive sort. The FDA says that people might have a relapse (of depression, of seizures, of ulcers) that just so happens to occur at the same time that a switch to the generic occurs, and they'll blame it on the generic. But I swear that a recent switch to generic Effexor led to "breakthrough" weeping twice. In cases where the drug has an effect on emotions, it is impossible, I think, to prove that there's a difference. There's no way that you can compare yourself to yourself, except if you're living in Groundhog Day , and even then the outside factors shift each day.
This is why I paid nearly $100 today to Osco Drugs so that I could get a week's supply of brand-name Effexor so that I could compare myself to myself on and off the brand.
What happens if I find there's a big difference between the generic and the brand? Then I have to appeal to the insurance company, and last time I did this, headquarters misplaced my paperwork and then refused to allow me to buy the brand name for the generic price. Eventually I got off the drug because of news that it interfered with Tamoxifen.
Tonight I was riding my bike back from the Y and thinking how much I felt like myself. Which is a slippery slope in the creative nonfiction biz, because the Weltanschauung in academic/professional circles is that everyone has personae and you can't "be yourself" in your writing because there is no consistent self. I do remember reading an advice book or essay when I was young that attacked the hoary notion that you should "be yourself," asking in so many words, Who is this vaunted self? and arguing that our selves are not yet formed in teen-age-hood and that we should conform and be tactful. I've tried to find the quote in How to Get a Teen-Age Boy and What To Do With Him When You Get Him, but all I found is that the author died of cancer in 1995.
I remember reading Peter Kramer's Listening to Prozac where he talks about a patient who says she feels more herself on Prozac. Commentator Sherry Turkle had this to say about the notion in Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, published 16 years ago:
If a patient on the antidepressant medication Prozac tells his therapist he feels more like himself with the drug than without it, what does this do to our standard notions of a real self? Where does a medication end and a person begin? Where does real life end and a game begin? Is the real self always the naturally occurring one? Is the real self always the one in the physical world? As more and more real business gets done in cyberspace, could the real self be the one who functions best in that realm?
All I know is that I haven't wept since Tuesday--this "I" being the self that moves in the world and the self that stays at home.

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( Illustration : I Am Half-Sick of Shadows," Said the Lady of Shalott by Sidney Harold Meteyard. 1913. Oil on canvas 30 x 45 inches. Private Collection, Europe [as of 1985].)
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