When it comes to taking generic heart medications, appearance matters, according to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Physicians often prescribe generic medications for the treatment of cardiovascular disease because generics are inexpensive for patients and payors and are available in nearly every class of relevant medication - antihypertensive, lipid-lowering, anticoagulant, antiplatelet, and antiarrhythmic agents. While generic drugs are therapeutically interchangeable, pill appearance may vary among manufacturers, or between generic and brand-name versions of a drug. Whether these appearance changes affect patient adherence to medications is an issue because taking medications as prescribed is essential for good outcomes.
Researchers studied more than 11,000 patients who had a heart attack and were placed on generic prescriptions to determine if inconsistent appearance of prescribed generic medication among patients with cardiovascular disease is associated with nonpersistent use of these medications. Researchers found that for heart patients who had stopped taking their medication there were 30 percent greater odds that they had a change in pill color or shape preceding the discontinuation. Cosmetic changes in generic heart medications are common. About a third of patients had a change in pill shape or color during the study. The authors suggest that doctors who prescribe generic cardiovascular drugs proactively warn patients about the potential for appearance changes and explain that even if the pill looks different, the medication is the same.