Sunday, November 29, 2009

Read your Labels

Yesterday I finally got around to getting some medicine for this stupid cough. My doctor (the pulmonologist) usually has me take Mucinex when I start to cough. Mucinex is extended release guaifenesin--600 mg to be exact, released over 12 hours. In my discount store-of-choice, however, the only plain Mucinex was $30. There were either 40 or 48 tabs, I forget which, but that didn't matter much. THIRTY DOLLARS. I just didn't get it.

I knew guaifenesin was an old drug. I clearly remember taking it as a child, in over-the-counter cough syrup. I had some recollection from nursing school that it was plant-derived--surely not a scarce commodity. After I started thinking about it, I did a little research. Not only is it old, guaifenesin can safely be called ancient; there are records of it being used in the 1500's (albeit for syphillis) and it was grandfathered into the FDA system as an old drug.

What's more, it's all over the OTC shelves in dozens of other products. Although it took a few minutes to read the labels (since so many were combination products and I didn't want any other medications), I settled on a bottle of plain Robitussin, with 100 mg guaifenesin per tsp, and a bottle of 60 of a different mucus relief tablet--400 mg guaifenesin per tablet, to be taken every 4 hours. Total cost for both: about $6. Same drug, in sufficient quantity, for $24 less than the Mucinex. (I wonder if that's why they advertise so heavily on television?)

I also learned that the maker of extended release Mucinex developed and holds the patent for the extended release formulation--hence the price difference between it and standard release. For me, though, the convenience of that every 12 hours dosing is just not worth all the extra money! I'll just have to keep up with my dosing until this cough is better. Besides, I'm not positive I need liquified mucus in the middle of the night anyway. Cheers!


  1. Hope you get well quickly and cheaply!

  2. Wow - what a price difference. Thanks for the heads up.

    I hope you feel better soon.


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