Withdraw enforcement on doctors for prescribing “Generic” medicines.

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Withdraw enforcement on doctors for prescribing “Generic” medicines.

The MCI & Health Ministry have proposed a legal framework under which doctors will have to prescribe generic medicines which are cheaper than equivalent branded drugs, to patients.

But the most important question is: Are we ready for the generics?

There are few concepts which need to be understood.

What exactly is the difference between a generic drug and brand name drug?

When a company develops a new drug, often after years of research, it applies for a patent, which prohibits anyone else from making the drug for a fixed period. To recover the cost of research and development, companies usually price their brand name drugs on the higher side. Once the patent expires, other manufacturers duplicate and market their own versions of the drug. Since the manufacture of these generic drugs do not involve a repeat of the extensive clinical trials to prove their safety and efficacy, it costs less to develop them but there are no pure “generic products” available in the Indian market. These so called “generics” are also available only with brand names and they are called as ‘branded generics’ which are significantly cheaper than the innovator brand.

Generic name- Generic name means the name of the chemical salt and is not synonymous with a generic drug. According to the circular by the MCI, doctors are required to write the Generic name (chemical name) of the drug instead to the brand name.

The perceived purpose of this move is to reduce the price of the drugs and make it more affordable to the patients.

While the idea of enforcing doctors to prescribe ‘Generic’ medicines may sound good but it is highly impractical. In fact, rather than providing solution to the problem of expensive medicines, it may aggravate the problem.

Issues with prescription of generic medicines:

Cost: Now, since doctor will be compelled to write generic name of drug on the prescription, the chemist is the one who will have right to dispense medicine of his choice and he might push for products providing better profit margin. It will make medicines more expensive for patient.

Safety: There are too many Fixed Dose Combinations with varying strengths available in the market for different conditions. So, if doctor has to write generic name, pharmacist may make an error in dispensing, it may result in health complications.

Quality: Many propaganda companies, who don’t comply with the quality check (QA/QC), may push chemist to dispense their product for hefty profit margin. Such products may not be effective or worse can prove hazardous for patients.

Lack of Qualified Pharmacist: This issue has raised another important question. Is it right and ethical to hand over such an important responsibility of handling doctor’s prescription to the chemist? Most of the chemists may not be qualified and it has been observed that most of them may not be even aware about the storage conditions of the drugs such as maintenance of appropriate storage temperature which leads to the deterioration of the drug. Burdening them with this additional responsibility might directly affect the health and well-being of the patients.

Availability of generic medicine: Jan Aushadhi medical stores and private chemist shops are stocked with very few generic medicines. Most of these medicines are not useful for patients with chronic illnesses or those in need of critical care. Many medicines that are needed by the doctors for managing patient’s ailments may not be present in the generic form. The generic medicines that are available may not be sufficient to take care of all medical conditions, e.g. critical care, etc.
 

So to conclude, compulsion on the doctors to prescribe the generic drugs is not the only solution. Before such step is taken, we need to look into few important things like quality, cost of generic drugs, and understanding of the chemist in dispensing the generic drugs. It is true that the generics will be cheaper than the innovator brands, but right now it is perceived that so called generics will be substantially cheaper than the branded generics, which is may not be true in majority of the cases.

Potential scenario which is bound to arise by implementation of this step is dispensing of substandard drugs, possibly higher cost and the worst is the adverse health implications on the patients.

Rather than decreasing the financial burden on the patients, this step can further increase it in the long run. Also, this has led to a chaotic situation among the medical fraternity. The only beneficiary from this entire exercise seems to be the chemist while patients for whom it was started are at the losing end.

Therefore, I request you to support the petition to withdraw the enforcement of prescribing the generic drugs by the doctors.

 

P.S- This petition will be submitted to PMO, Health Ministry, IMA, MCI, etc.



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