A Warning About Your Birth Control

Earlier this year, the FDA approved a generic low-dose birth control called Tri-Lo Sprintec. Afterward, many insurance companies — including mine — switched coverage from the name-brand Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo to the much cheaper, newly approved generic brand. In July, just a few days before my wedding, my pharmacist informed me of the switch and said that if I wanted to continue taking the name brand, I’d now have to pay the full cost, which would be an increase of $60 over what I’d been paying when my insurance still covered it. After the pharmacist assured me the formula in the two pills was “exactly the same,” I decided to save some money and try the generic brand, Tri-Lo Sprintec. Since then, I’ve been experiencing all kinds of unpleasant side effects.In my essay the other day about the withdrawal method, I mentioned that I’d experienced weight gain and boob growth on the Pill. What I didn’t mention was that these side effects increased exponentially after I switched to the generic brand. In fact, on OTC, they barely even registered on my radar. In addition to the weight gain, boob growth and uncomfortable bloating in my midsection, I’d also been experiencing intense full-body itching — so bad, it was keeping me awake at night. About a month ago, I even started breaking out in hives — on my face, my neck, my elbow, my armpits. I’ve been miserable! I knew the weight gain and my suddenly overflowing cup-size were probably results of this new Pill, but it wasn’t until I started reading a variety of message boards on the subject this weekend that I realized my itchy skin and hives were a side effect as well.

I was simultaneously relieved and appalled to learn that hundreds of women — and probably thousands more who haven’t written reviews yet — are experiencing exactly the same reaction to Tri-Lo Sprintec that I am. Just like me, most of them had been on Ortho Tri-Cylcen Lo with limited problems, but switched to the generic brand when their insurance companies stopped coverage of OTC. Like me, they were told by their pharmacists and doctors that the formulas were “exactly the same,” and, just like me, many, many of them have experienced terrible side effects from Tri-Lo Sprintec. When some of the women complained to their doctors and pharmacists about what was happening, they were told they were “crazy,” and that “no one else has complained.” On the message boards, pharmacists are even weighing in saying that women who demand the name brand over the generic are “psycho” and simply don’t realize the two medications are comprised of the same ingredients.

Ladies, I want this to be a warning to you: The formulas in Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo and the generic Tri-Lo Sprintec are not the same! The active ingredients may be similar — not the same, similar — but the inactive “filler” ingredients are different (compare here and here) and it’s very possible that you, like me, may be allergic to whatever fillers are used in either pill. Don’t let pharmacists or doctors intimidate you — you’re not “crazy” or “psycho” by questioning whether a particular prescription is right for you. You know your body better than they do — you’re not just “confused” if you’re experiencing unpleasant side effects on medication prescribed by your doctor, even if you’re told the formula is “exactly the same” as whatever else you may have taken in the past. What the FDA calls “identical” — and, therefore, the way many doctors and pharmacists use the word “identical” — is a legal interpretation, not literal!

If you are one of the many women who decided to switch from Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo to the new Tri-Lo Sprintec and you’re experiencing side effects you didn’t experience on OTC, please, please tell your doctors and pharmacists immediately. Leave reviews on the message boards and warn other women (there’s one here, here, and here), leave a review in comments here, write a letter to Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the company that makes Tri-Lo Sprintec, letting them know how unhappy you are with their product, and complain to your insurance company if they’ve stopped covering OTC in lieu of this generic brand that seems to be causing so much grief for so many of us. If we make enough noise, maybe we’ll stop being called “crazy” and start being taken seriously.