Are all vitamins the same?

My wife and I were at the drug store looking for prenatal vitamins. Her doctor said to get any brand, they were all the same. I compared a $25 name brand to the $5 store brand and not only were the % daily values the same, but the ingredient list was also exactly identical. However, the pharmacist insisted that they were different, the name brand being far superior to the store brand (which he claimed was practically worthless). We ended up getting the store brand anyway but my wife believes we made a serious mistake. I contend the name brand is a rip off.

So, is there any difference between generic vitamins and name brands, besides price? I’ve looked online, but the only answers I’ve found were on web sites selling vitamins, so of course they will say theirs are better.

I had friend who was a pharmacist (I know, great source) and I asked him the same question. He told me that there were indeed differences. But, he said that for the most part the differences weren’t as signicant as they were made out to be by the manufacturers. He recommended any old vitamins.

The biggest differences between name brand and generic vitamins are not in the vitamins themselves but in other issues like digestibility. At one point, there was a distinct difference between the two because the generics wouldn’t digest properly in the system within the necessary time, and so didn’t release the vitamins. AFAIK, this issue hasn’t been much of a problem recently.

There are some people who insist that natural sources of vitamins are better than artificial ones. There may be some slight truth to this, as some vitamins, like vitamin A, have several different forms - some of which seem to convey more benefit than others. That’s still not the same thing as saying that one supplement is better than another. None of my sources on vitamins and supplements say this and in fact The Tufts University Guide to Total Nutrition says:

I always get the store brand myself and I’m a physical wreck. OK, that’s maybe not the best endorsement. But I save a lot of money that can go toward paying doctors’ bills. :slight_smile:

A pharmacist told you this? Get thee to another pharmacy. I’m 44 years old, and never encountered a pharmacist this stupid.

If the percentge of vitamins and minerals are similar, than the differences in vitamins is small – possibly different dyes, binders, etc. I tend to prescribe mainly generic medicines and find them as effective as name brand medicines

There is also freshness to consider. Some of the vitamins are rather susceptable to degradation due to heat, sunlight, and general age.

Otherwise- Exapno Mapcase has it correct. The better vitamins will be absorbed instead of just “passed through”.

I’d get a good brand- not a “store” brand from a Drugstore, but one recommened at a good large, local health food store. Yes, they might be a tad more expensive, and you might risk wasting a few bucks, but for Pre-natal, I’d spend the difference.

Do make sure she gets some good probiotics from yogurt, which also has a nice amount of calcium. And good fresh food- small amounts of lean red meat (hormone free), fresh organic veggies, etc. Do note that generally I don’t think that "organic’ is worth it, but this is a critical period, and hang the small extra expense.

Incidentally, I agree with the good Doctor here- usually. But the small extra expense for a few months is worth peace of mind, IMHO.

Yes, it was a pharmacist, from behind the counter, and she said she recommended that brand to all of her customers. Also, my wife has a friend who is in pharmacy school (or maybe he graduated already, I’m not sure) and working as some sort of intern and he says to not even buy the over the counter stuff; prescription vitamins are much better. However, her doctor said that while he could prescribe her those, the differences are negligible.

Thanks for the advice. We’re going back to get the expensive brand though because one of her friends got to her and said she heard FOAF that cheap vitamins can cause a miscarriage, and now my wife is freaking out. The extra money is worth it for me if it stops her from crying.

I seriously, seriously doubt that. The liability alone would wreck the company. Both the generic and the name brand both have to get past the FDA and they aren’t any more leniant, just because it’s generic.

&($$%# $@^%! &%#^%

Why, why would her “friend” scare her like that?! Jeebus Christu, if this were only in the Pit!

Look, there is not and has never been a serious implication that “cheap” vitamins cause miscarriage. It reveals nothing when googled (cheap vitamins can cause a miscarriage, or inexpensive vitamins miscarriage) that even claims such a thing. And really, if some tin-foil hat wearing hysteric was going to start such a rumor, wouldn’t it show up on the internet?

The ONLY reason to be concerned with the efficacy of a vitamin is due to the binders used in it. Some binders do not break down at the correct place in the digestive tract, and so make absorption of the nutrient impossible. (This, not to tangent, is why later studies of garlic have shown it ineffective in treating cardiac disorders, while early studies showed good results: the manufacturer switched to a cheaper binder which doesn’t break down until the small intestine, while the active ingredient could be absorbed only in the stomach. No absorbtion, no effect.)

However, most of these “generics” are the SAME EXACT PILL as in the name brand, simply packaged into store labels. They are not true “generics” in being a replica pill made by a different firm. They are not even properly called “generics,” they are called “Store label” or “Store brand.” When I managed a small herbal company, reps would badger me constantly to order 1000 bottles of their supplements, with a custom made label with the name of my shop on it. (I declined. Anything that has my name on it is going to be made by me, thankyouverymuch.)

The safety of supplements is another concern. It is possible that a batch of vitamins - any vitamins or supplements, name brand or generic - could be contaminated with a foreign matter, say lead or strychnine. These would then be dangerous. I would recomend sticking with domestically produced generics simply because the Good Manufacturing Practices which all large-scale producers must follow make it much less likely for such a horrible thing to occur. The same cannot be said of a small mom-and-pop firm (one with under 10 employees, IIRC) or a firm in another country where guidelines might be less stringent. If you have a personal relationship with a supplement manufacturer who is not bound by GMP regulations (like I used to be), then it’s a matter of trust between you and that person, and their trust of their suppliers.

Shalmanese, you’re right and you’re wrong. Big companies have liability insurance to cover their financial asses in case of a contamination lawsuit, whereas generic ones do not (and risk going under in a nightmare scenario). But the FDA does not regulate vitamin production, as they are classified as “supplements,” not “drugs.” Good Manufacturing Practices, however, do regulate the production of supplements, and require certain safety in production protocols, but do not warrant the safety or efficacy of the vitamin/supplement itself.