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Holiday Surprise: Generic Valacyclovir

Posted Dec 28 2009 8:21am 1 Comment

Last week one of my patients went to refill a Valtrex prescription, and was offered generic valacyclovir for the first time.  It made him nervous, so he requested I write a “brand-name only” script.

I confess the existence of a generic formulation of valacyclovir — which according to the PharmD here has been available for several months — was news to me. presents(Generic acylcovir and famciclovir* have been available for years.)

And while there is no reason to suspect generic valacylcovir will have any unusual issues related to efficacy or toxicity compared to the branded version, this Times article reminds us that this is not always the case:

Joe Graedon, who has been writing about pharmaceuticals for three decades and runs a consumer advocacy Web site, the People’s Pharmacy (, was 100 percent behind generics for many years.  “We were the country’s leading generic enthusiasts,” he told me recently. But over the last eight or nine years, Mr. Graedon began hearing about “misadventures” from people who read his syndicated newspaper column.

What follows are some anecdotal experiences and opinions — largely from the psych, neurology, and cardiology fields — about the potential dangers of even slight differences in bioequivalence or excipients between branded and generic drugs.  For even more of the same, read the comments section here.

Which brings me back to my patient:  Since he’s taking the Valtrex for an unusual reason (recurrent HSV-related meningitis), and since he’s willing to pay extra for the branded version, I went ahead and wrote the “brand name only” script.

My thinking?  Let’s see what a year or so of experience with generic valacyclovir brings us when used for more typical indications before making the switch.

(*Why isn’t this spelled “famcyclovir”?)

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