What do those little letters, CD, ER, SR, etc, after a brand name drug’s name mean? The exact terminology varies, but they usually translate to the same thing: unnecessary ripoffs.
Whether it says CD, CR, ER, LA, SR, XL, XR, or XT, the letters really stand for a version of the drug that releases differently into the body. By coming up with different variations on old drugs, pharmaceutical companies can keep the profits rolling on drugs whose patents have expired. Best of all, if they can get the doctor to write one of these letter sequences after the drug’s name, the pharmacy can’t substitute a lower-priced generic (unless a generic of the extended release version is already on the market).
For example, Wellbutrin (bupropion) came out in 1985 requiring 3 pills a day. In 1996, 36 months before the old patent expired, they came up with Wellbutrin SR, only 2 pills a day. In 2003, 5 months before the SR patent expired, Wellbutrin XL was released, only one pill a day.
A 3 month supply of 300 mg of bupropion per day retails on average for $270. You’ll have to pay $693 and $656 for Wellbutrin SR and XL, respectively. Over the course of a year, that’s $1080 extra dollars. Is it really worth paying 2.5 times as much just for one fewer pill?
There are exceptions where an extended formula works better, like short-acting calcium channel blockers like nifedipine, or Parkinson’s treatment drug Sinemet CR. Luckily, in both cases, the extended release versions are available as lower-costing generics. Furthermore, a certain medication might otherwise be too hard to time correctly if several pills are needed a day at specific intervals. As always always always, any change in your medication needs to be discussed with your doctor.