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Chronic Pain Health — 08 October 2012

Excedrin headache number 2012 is about to end for some fans of the popular over-the-counter pain reliever.

Ten months after a voluntary recall left consumers scrambling for a substitute medication, Novartis (NYSE: NVS) says it will start shipping Excedrin Migraine to stores beginning the week of October 15.

But for those who prefer Excedrin’s Extra Strength formula, the wait in going to be a little bit longer. The company says it doesn’t expect to have that product back on the market until the beginning of next year.

In a statement, Novartis said it “is pleased to announce that Excedrin Migraine will ship to stores the week of October 15 and begin to appear on store shelves as soon as the end of October.  We anticipate that Excedrin Extra Strength will ship to stores in January 2013.”

Novartis is restarting production at its Lincoln, Nebraska, manufacturing facility on a line-by-line, product-by-product basis. The company shut the plant down in January after discovering that bottles of Excedrin contained stray tablets from other Novartis products, or from painkillers produced at the same plant.

Since then, as supplies of Excedrin started to dwindle, loyal customers began paying exorbitant prices for a product they swear by. A recent search of internet sites found mostly generic substitutes with only a few sellers offering genuine Excedrin – at highly inflated prices.

On amazon.com, a bottle of Excedrin Tension Headache 100 caplets costs $74.99. Bottles of 100 bi-layer Back & Body Extra Strength caplets will set you back $89.99. If you look on eBay, a 60 tablet bottle of Excedrin Pain Reliever from Japan seems like a bargain at $51.01.

If you don’t mind using Excedrin from the recalled batch of medicine, four packages of Extra Strength with two tablets each can be purchased for just under ten dollars. Before the recall, you could buy a 100 tablet bottle for the same price.

In contrast, a generic versions of Excedrin Migraine with the same ingredients (250 milligrams of acetaminophen, 250 mg of aspirin, and 65 mg of caffeine) can be found for less than two dollars.

Doctors Say Generics Work

Is there really a difference between Excedrin and its generic counterparts?

Experts told WebMD that if the active ingredients are the same, there should be no significant medical difference in how they work.

“There is not really any reason to believe the formulation of the generic versions are any different than that of Excedrin Migraine,” said Andrew Charles, MD, professor of neurology and director of the UCLA Headache Research and Treatment Program.

He attributed the different results that patients are reporting to what’s known as the placebo effect, a phenomenon that occurs when a patient, after receiving a fake pill or inactive substance, reports an improvement in their condition simply because they had the expectation it would be helpful.

“There is a significant amount of placebo response and patient brand loyalty, based in part on their experience and also on marketing,” Charles said.

“”The placebo effect is a real effect,” said Jason Rosenberg, MD, assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. “Part of the beneficial effect of the drug is the belief that it does work.”

Still, the idea of a substitute doesn’t sit well with many of the 289,000 who “like” Excedrin on its Facebook page.  On a daily basis, they post about how generic versions don’t seem to work, and can’t wait for the product to become available again.

“I tried the alternative generic brands and they just don’t work, “wrote Suhammad Salman.” I know it’s supposed to be the ‘same ingredients’ but my body and head says differently. Thank God I found an old bottle in my parents’ (medicine) cabinet.”

Catherine Rourke posted that she has “tried every generic formula and other brand and nothing comes close to Excedrin’s potency and effectiveness despite the supposed identical ingredients of other brands.”

“I need some migraine gel caps,” writes Karen Locklear, “and I need them now.”

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About Author

Richard Lenti

Richard Lenti has worked as a news writer for the last 20 years at various television stations in Los Angeles. He is a Golden Mike winner and a graduate of California State University, Fresno. With roots in print journalism, Richard is excited to be “published” once again; having people read his work as opposed to having it read to them. As a freelance writer his work has appeared in the Easy Reader, L.A. Jazz Scene, Irrigation and Green Industry, and the KCAL 9 Online website.

(25) Readers Comments

  1. @PAT: I just bought Extra Strength Excedrin at Publix grocery store around the end of January, 1st of Feb., so it is back on some shelves. I was shocked to finally see it, so I snatched up two bottles of it. I only saw it there in caplet form, but then, who cares? A week prior to that I checked two big drug store chains and it was not there and it was not at Targets, but now that Publix has it on its shelves, it must be slowly making its way to the other stores. Since it has been almost three weeks since I purchased my bottleS of Extra Strength, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were not on the shelves all over the place by this time. I would check again at your major grocery stores and drug stores.

  2. You previously stated Excedrin Extra strength would be back on the market in Jan. of 2013. As of today, I have checked several stores for this product and it is not on their shelves. When will Excedrin Extra Strength capletet be avaliable in stores.

  3. I have not seen the green extra Strength Excedrine bottle on the shelves anywhere I have shopped and was there a recall on this too? I never had any trouble with the regular Extra strength excederine that usually helped with my lower back pain, Sinus and tension headaches in my time..Whats happened and when is it coming back on the shelves..Target, bell aire and Rite aide shelves are empty of it..I kept looking for it..Still. Debbie.

  4. I would like to see excedrin quick tabs on the shelf. They were the best

  5. I understand that generic is the same, but as an excedrine migraine consumer, I have to say, Generic did take the migraines away, but the side effects for some reason were not the same. I found that generic would not give me the jittery shaky side effect I got with the Excedrine Migraines Gel caps. I dont Understand the reason behind this, since they are supposed to have the same components. The generics I took were not gel caps, that is the only difference. I will try Excedrine Migraine again, but If I see that I have that shaky, jittery side effect again, I think I will go back to Generic. Does anyone understand the reason behind this?

  6. HAS ANYONE SEEN THE **EXTRA STRENGTH** BACK ON THE SHELVES ANY WHERE YET? IT WAS SUPPOSE TO BE ON THE SHELVES IN JANUARY. HAS ANYONE SPOTTED IT YET IN ANY OF THE STORES?

  7. Walgreens brand of Extra Strength has no effect at all on my headaches – there is no comaprison. Waiting for the return of Excedrin ES!!!!

  8. Excedrin Migraine has 250mg of Aspirin in it. So does Extra Strength. That’s the NSAID in the Migraine med. If I recall correctly (it’s been soooo long), the Extra strength has 75mg of aspirin. However, pain wise, they are both the same meds unless you suffer from really bad migraines. The Extra Strength should be hitting the shelves any day now, (hope, hope) so all will have their choice once again.

  9. Let me tell you Excedrin anything works for me I can not tell you why but this is so. I take two Excedrin extra strengths in the morning and I am good I need to have this can not wait for its return!

  10. Do not misunderstand, Excedrin Migraine, and Excedrin Extra Strength are not the same! Excedrin Migraine uses a (NSAID) in place of aspirin, where Excedrin Extra Strength uses Actual Aspirin. And for some….”like me” it makes all the difference in the world!!!

  11. @Barbara Price: The Extra Strength, which is what I use also, is suppose to start coming back on the shelves starting in January, so very soon–like any day. However, the Excedrin Migraine is already out and it is exactly the same thing as Extra Strength. You might want to try that until the Extra Strength hits the shelves later this month. I read the January shelf hitting date from a Novaris web line, so I assume it is still true. I agree with you, some of the other drug store versions just didn’t hit it, but I bought the Migraine version until the Extra Strength comes out and it gives me the relief I want until the Extra Strength starts popping up. Hope this helps. I have been trying to stay on top of this for quite some time now because I am big fan of Excedrin.

  12. I get headaches and have tried Tylenol and CVS’s version of Excedrin…supposed to have the same ingredients. For some reason and it’s not a matter of my expections, it’s FACT, within 15 minutes of taking Excedrin my headache is gone. PLEASE, PLEASE, get the Exedrin Extra Strength back on the shelves. I can’t function with a headache, can’t even drive or stand light. Yes, the headache is in my head but the remedy is REAL.

  13. What happened to Excedrin Back and Body? When I ran out of the bottle I had it has been impossible to find it? What is going on? I spent an hour or more searching at 2 Walmart location’s,CVS and Walgreens. After that figured something must be up that i wasn’t aware of. Now I’m curious. Should I look for a different pain releiver?

  14. @Selby Segall: I read once a notice put out from Nevaris that they are putting different types of Excedrin back on the shelves at different times. They are coming off the lines at a difference pace from each other. Extra Strength will be back next month. Perhaps the one you are looking for will be the next to follow. It sounds like they are releasing each product 1-2 months apart. If you go on Nevaris (Novaris)??? web site, they may have a schedule out by now. You just have to keep checking back with them. I don’t think they have all of the Excedrin pills running fully off the individual lines yet at full capacity from what they indicated.Just thought I would tell you what I read from the last notice I saw from them. Everyone is waiting for their particular type of Excedrin to get back on the shelves.

  15. Excedrin Migraine seems to be drifting back but where is the Excedrin Back and Body? It’s all I can use for arthritis because it contains no caffeine. This is outrageous. Gone since January 2012? What a disgrace

  16. Excedrin Extra Strength works – and it works within 20 minutes! I saw and bought every 2-pack I saw last month in a 7-11. Since then, I have not been able to locate more. I saw Excedrin Migraine at Walgreen. None of the other store brands – Target, Walmart, Walgreen, CVS-worked for me. Hurry, hurry January!

    Dorothy Barton

  17. I usually use the Extra Strength Excedrin, but since the Excedrin Migraine is now on the shelves I am using that instead. It is the exact same medication, same ingredients, same dosage. The box labeled “Extra Strength” will be on the shelves some time in January, but in the mean time Excedrin Migraine works the same. I am soooo glad Excedrin is back on the shelves once again. I can’t express how much I missed it. I was taking a headache medicine sold and labeled by a well-known drug store, made up of mostly ibuprophen(sp??), and after awhile, started getting severe cramps in my feet and legs at night, and cramp twinges in my legs during the day. After Excedrin came back and I was able to switch, all that went away and I feel much better. Excedrin to the rescue once again. Welcome back Excedrin. You saved me from more than headaches this time.

  18. I saw Excedrin Migraine in Targets last Tuesday and picked up a small bottle. I normally use Extra Strength but it won’t hit the shelves until February 2013. I compared the ingredients in Excedrin Migraine to an old bottle I had of Excedrin Extra Strength and they are identical: 250mg of aspirin, 250mg of acetominophen (sp?), 60mg caffeine, so I can use the migraine formula in place of extra strength in the mean time without worry. I was thrilled to see it in my local stores again even though I had read it would be on the shelves in late October, early November. I can’t wait until the Extra Strength comes out, even though the two seem to be identical. It is a great feeling to know my fastest and best cure for constant headaches will be back in the stores soon and that Excedrin box I saw this week was the best looking site I had seen for a long, long time. Welcome back Excedrin. It’s been too long.

  19. I like so many others, I tried generic brands to get some relief. The one I settled on I still didn’t like the after affects of dizzy, nauseousness, “feel-like-I-am-in-a-never-ending-tunnel” feeling. The generic did work, but I still refused to take it while I drove. Excedrin Migraine, was and hopefully will still be a wonderful drug. The relief is with in minutes. As child I had a horrible time with headaches. Though my mother – at the time I was about 9 – hated letting me self administer myself, she relented because she knew I was in so much pain. My idea of relief was 4 – 500 mg extra strength Tylenol and then go sleep for 2, 4 even as much as 6 hours. I truly feel for those who are in agony if someone just brushes against them. I had one such migraine that lasted for three (3) straight days. All I could do was lie still in bed and sleep. Since Excedrin is wonderful, because it has been a long time since I have had to sleep off a headache.

  20. I can’t tell you how elated I am to hear Excedrin Extra Strength will start hitting the shelves in January or so of next year. The sooner the better. I have been taking a headache med from a drug store that is heavy on acetominophen (sp?) and I am feeling the effects of too much of that one drug. I never had any side effects from Excedrin and it worked without needing as much. I’ve missed my Excedrin more than words can say. When I see it on a store shelf again, I am going to buy every box and throw a big party to celebrate the best headache medicine finally coming back to us. Hurry up Novartis and get the Extra Strength out to the drug stores and other stores too. We’ve waited too long as it is. We have really missed our Excedrin.

  21. As a pharmacist I wholeheartedly agree with the placebo effect. As a patient who takes amphetamine salts, I wholeheartedly disagree that all generics are the same. Pharmacore brand amphetamine salts make me sick while Revs brand works the best. Yes the active ingredients are the same, but the fillers aren’t.

  22. I was at “SAMs Club” today in Manchester, Ct. and Excederine Migraine was on the shelves. Great news, finally.

  23. I use Extra Strength Excedrin! It’s the only thing that will take my bad headaches away. Why is the wait until the 1st of the year if they got everything straightened out and thier going to sell the migraine Excedrin now? Don’t Understand! and does the 1st of the year mean Jan. of 2013? Let me know , Thanks, Ken.

  24. Excedrin Extra Strength vs. Excedrin Migraine…correct me if I’m wrong but the ingredients and ratio of each are the same right? It’s more of a marketing ploy than formula difference. Regardless, get the damn pills back on the shelf already. I’m getting a headache just waiting so long!

  25. On the topic of “generic” medicines. I am not positive about OTC drugs, but for prescription drugs, the “generic” alternative must share the same composition as the name brand, no ifs ands or buts. So if Pfizer puts a dash of caffeine in one of their medicines, then the generic manufacturer must do the same. Its the only product available in which the generic is the exact same as the name brand. I would assume the OTC medications would be regulated in the same way, but weirder things have happened.