The study, published in tomorrow's edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association, comes from doctors including Aaron Kesselheim, MD, JD, MPH, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
Kesselheim and colleagues pooled data from 47 studies of generic and brand-name cardiovascular drugs, including beta-blockers, statins, calcium channel blockers, diuretics, and warfarin. Those studies were published in peer-reviewed publications between January 1984 and August 2008.
The researchers focused on clinical outcomes -- including heart rate, blood pressure, illness, and death -- and found no evidence that the brand-name drugs were superior to the generic drugs.
But Kesselheim's team also read 43 editorials and commentaries published during the same period and found that 53% of those papers expressed negative views about switching to generic drugs.
It's not clear why so many editorialists and commentators weren't keen on switching to generic drugs. Some concern may have come from anecdotal experience, or from financial ties to drug companies, according to Kesselheim and colleagues, who themselves note no financial conflicts of interest.
"To limit unfounded distrust of generic medications, popular media and scientific journals could choose to be more selective about publishing perspective pieces based on anecdotal evidence of diminished clinical efficacy or greater risk of adverse effects with generic medications," write the researchers.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), an industry group for U.S. pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, issued a statement about Kesselheim's study.
"PhRMA has always supported patients receiving the medicines that are best for them, including both brand-name medicines and generic drugs," says PhRMA Senior Vice President Ken Johnson in the statement. He also notes that "without today's brand-name drugs to legally copy, there would be no generic drug industry. Worse yet, there would be little hope of finding new treatments and cures for a wide range of debilitating -- and often deadly -- diseases."