Tamoxifen Detective: How I got my Teva back

tevaLast year, I shared the story of how I was given a different brand of my Tamoxifen at the pharmacy. It was made by Mylan instead of Teva, the brand that I’ve been in a long relationship with (click here to read the story). I felt confused. At the time, I hadn’t realized there were different brands, and I soon learned that patients could experience different side effects from each of these brands due to the fillers each manufacture uses. (The active ingredients are supposed to be the same though.) Patients can try different brands to see which has the least side effects for them.

This month, I’m learning from online support groups that many Teva patients are experiencing the same situation — their pharmacists are recommending different brands other than Teva. But each patient is being told a different story – either that the Teva product is being discontinued, that there’s a shortage, etc. What’s going on?

I’ve been taking the Teva brand for years now, and although I complain about this medication a lot, I am really not doing too badly on it. My uterus is still healthy (knock on wood!) and I don’t experience hot flashes – two biggies for me. The thought of trying a different brand concerns me. I want to stick with the devil I know. I once did give the Mylan brand a try for a few weeks, and I experienced dizziness and loss of balance, to the point where I thought I was having brain mets! This side effect was scary. I demanded my Teva back, and the pharmacy eventually ordered it for me. I felt a huge sense of relief, and suddenly the side effects that Teva did have on me were more acceptable.

This month I had another worrying interaction with the pharmacist. She stated that the Teva brand had been discontinued by the manufacture, and that my only option would be to go with the Mylan brand. I explained the symptoms I had experienced with Mylan, but the pharmacist pretty much ignored my concerns and suggested I take it anyway. I refused, and left the place.

I went online and did some research, hoping that the 8 Teva pills I had left would allow me enough time to find what I wanted. I learned that, apparently, Teva was acquired by a company called MaynePharma, so I reached out to them directly. The friendly representative I spoke to confirmed that they bought the Teva brand, and the good news is that the fillers are exactly the same – same exact drug and manufacture process. I was given the National Drug Code (NDC) for the 30-day supply (#51862-446-30), and I was instructed to provide this code to the pharmacy so they could place the order for me. MaynePharma even suggested that my pharmacy give them a call, if they experience any issues with the order.

I returned to the pharmacy, hoping to get better luck this time. The pharmacist looked up the NDC # and stated that the drugs would not be available until late March, and that there seem to be a shortage across the board for all the different brands of Tamoxifen. She also refused to contact MaynePharma.

I tried other pharmacies, including the one at my hospital. They all offered me the Mylan or Watson brand. No Teva.

Eventually, I found a pharmacy that would work with me. The pharmacist I spoke to was very empathetic when he heard the struggle in my voice on the phone, as I tried to explain my fear about taking the Mylan (or Watson) brand. The pharmacist said he would try to order it for me. And I am happy to report that I was able to get my Teva brand after all — just a few days later.

An experience like this adds to the difficulties of survivorship for patients like me. Some pharmacists do not realize how we develop a relationship with the drugs we are dependent upon for our lives. After going through a traumatic event, such as cancer, we desperately seek some level of normalcy or consistency. And this is so hard to accomplish, especially when we have no choice but to work within the pharmaceutical system. I don’t like changes forced on me, especially when those changes would make my life more complicated than it already is.

Yes, we have no choice but to take the treatments that are available to us, but it would be helpful if we could be allowed to gain some small level of control back after losing so much— even if it’s as simple as not having to jump through hoops to find and keep the drug we want and need.


A side note: I’d like to encourage everyone to ask their Oncologist what they’ve heard about the Teva acquisition. Was there a reason it was “taken off the market” in some areas? And please come back and share in the comments section.

About thesmallc

I'm Rebeca. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32. But there's more to my story: I am an animal lover. I love to cook. I have a wonderful fiancé who doesn't mind walking my rocky path with me. We currently live in New York. ---------------------------------------- “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” ― Viktor E. Frankl
This entry was posted in c World, Coping after cancer, Tamoxifen, Treatment and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Tamoxifen Detective: How I got my Teva back

  1. Connie says:

    I wonder if some of the less-than-compassionate lack of care you received from the pharmacies, pharmacists, and manufacturers stemmed from the AGE of the people you interacted with. People who gave never had health issues can be curt and hurried, with priorities other than patient care.

    • thesmallc says:

      Both great points, Connie. I agree this may be related to the common human flaw, “if you haven’t experienced it, you don’t know the struggle”. Some don’t have the ability or the interest to understand where we’re coming from. The other possibility is that these pharmacies have contracts with their distributors and aren’t allowed to break them. I worry there may be something else going on. I will ask my Onco if she heard anything about this acquisition. Thank you for stopping by. xx

  2. helensamia says:

    So glad you found a sympathetic pharmacist.. i think some drug companies give kick backs for selling there products which does not help the consumer at all

    • thesmallc says:

      I don’t think the main interest is to help the patients, and maybe I am being harsh here. We can’t completely ignore the fact that it is still a business, but if we’re lucky, we can find people who can work with us. I got lucky this time. xx

  3. Pingback: Weekly Round Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  4. Mandi says:

    I explained to one of my doctors that the adhesive to one of my drugs was giving me huge red welts on my back. She made adjustments so that I wouldn’t have to deal with welts. Never hurts to stand up for your comfort and happiness when it comes to drugs!

    • thesmallc says:

      Hi Mandi, I haven’t tried asking my doctors directly about these issues; thanks for the tip. I’ve always felt doctors never want to be involved with the pharmaceutical drama, and maybe they should. I tried contacting my hospital pharmacy but they went by what the system told them was available. Now I am trying to look into why Teva wasn’t available in some areas (have read some interesting articles about quality control, but nothing solid). xo

  5. Marg Brown says:

    I know this sounds bitter, but nothing gives me more anxiety than having to try and advocate for myself to a pharmacists. There has to be a better way. I don’t take tamoxifen anymore, the side effects were too much for me, and I couldn’t convince by local pharmacy (I live rurally, there is only one pharmacy) to order in another brand.

    • thesmallc says:

      Marg, you have to do what feels right for you. If you ever want to try a different brand, I am sure it’s not too late. I also find multiple pharmacies have different distributors and you might have a better chance trying different locations. I am sorry you had a bad experience with Tamox. cancer treatments aren’t easy. I wish this wasn’t the case. xo

  6. Cheri says:

    I’m experiencing the same issue with Teva generic Tamoxifen. After reading your post, my pharmacist ordered the new manufacturer’s code. Unfortunately, when I read the bottle it was not Teva, but Activa generic Tamoxifen. Evidently both Teva and Activa generic patents were acquired by Mayne Pharma. After numerous calls, I was given the correct NDC codes for the Teva generic 10mg(I take a split dose). Unfortunately, no pharmacies are able to access it. I’m now stuck with two brands that debilitate me. I’m currently calling wholesalers as per Mayne Pharma. I’m ready to stop taking the med altogether.

    • thesmallc says:

      Cheri, I am so sorry. Please try as many pharmacies as you can. Some pharmacies, although they are the same name, work with different distributors. See if you can speak to the Manager and ask that they try to order it for you. Try private pharmacies too. I am about to run out of my Teva soon so I am going to contact the same pharmacy that got the refills for me, to make sure they order it in advance. Try asking your Onco for help — perhaps his affiliated hospital can order it through their pharmacy? You shouldn’t have to go through this stress. I wish you good luck! xoxo

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