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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To use the tag line of the venerable ad agency, McCann Erickson, this
Wonderful story, Stu. I can't wait to see your next installment.