Generic prescription a boon for patients
A generic drug is the same as a brand-name drug in dosage, safety, strength, quality, the way it works, the way it is taken and the way it should be used. Drug regulatory authorities require generic drugs to have the same high quality, strength, purity and stability as brand-name drugs.
India is currently the largest provider of generic drugs to global markets. India currently ranks fourth in the world among the highest generic pharmaceuticals producers and contributes 20% of global generic drug exports. It exports to over 200 countries, including the highly regulated markets of US, Europe, Japan and Australia.
On April 17, while inaugurating a charity hospital in Surat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the government intended to move a law to ensure that doctors prescribe medicines by their generic names only. Following the announcement Medical council of India had issued a public notice to all physicians in the country to prescribe drugs only by generic names and warned of disciplinary action against doctors violating the code. This has generated a heated conversation in the media and in the pharma industry.
The intention behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi's announcement to amend rules to stop doctors from prescribing brand names of medicines is boon for patients. This move will benefit the people by cutting the cost of treatment, as patients are often asked to buy expensive versions of medicines while cheaper ones are available in the market.
Q. Why to prescribe by generic name ?
According WHO guide to good prescribing it is strongly recommended to use the international nonproprietary name (INN, generic name) of the drug.
Doctors write prescriptions in such a way that people do not understand the handwriting, and they have to buy that medicine from the pharmacy stores linked to their hospitals or clinics at higher prices. In this way, patients are indirectly forced to buy medicines from the pharmacies tied up with hospitals or doctors clinics at high prices. Prescribing by generic name (International Non-Proprietary Names) avoids confusion and dispensing errors.
Prescription in generic names is more scientific and rational:
Every drug that is sold has an International Non-proprietary Name (INN) that is decided upon by a global authority. The INN of a drug is also called its generic name. In addition, in India, most companies also have a brand name for the drug. For example, the INN for a common drug used to treat fever and pain is Paracetamol. Different companies sell the same drug (Paracetamol) under their chosen brand names – Crocin, Calpol, Paracip, etc. In the case of some popular drugs in India, the same drug may be marketed by hundreds of companies, each with a different brand name.
The brand identity of a drug is crucial for a company as it is this identity which allows it to differentiate its product from that of other companies. If drugs were only allowed to be sold by its INN, ie, generic name, companies would not be able to induce a larger number of prescriptions for its own product. This in turn would curb the ability of large companies to overprice their products by bribing doctors.
There is no scientific reason for doctors to prefer an expensive brand medicine to cheaper versions, as both act exactly in the same way.
Q.What will change with the new move?
The only thing which has changed is the way a doctor has to write prescription. The doctors have been asked to Prescribe by generic name (International Non-Proprietary Names) of the drug instead of brand names to avoid confusion and dispensing errors.
The new move to prescribe drugs by generic names the choice of selecting the drug has now been shifted to patient and pharmacist.
Earlier, doctors used to write prescriptions in such a way that people do not understand the handwriting, and they have to buy that medicine from the pharmacy stores linked to their hospitals or clinics at higher prices.
In India, it is well known fact that doctors get kickbacks and foreign trips from big pharma companies for prescribing their brand drugs. The new move will put an end to the current doctor-Pharma company nexus. The practice of drug kickbacks to doctors is a big reason for the ever increasing prices of drugs and the huge problem of drug affordability. It will not only benefit patients but the move will also strengthen public health in the country
Current situation at ground level:
Experience on the ground indicates that an overwhelming majority of doctors continue to flout the directive. Till date not a single prescription audit has been conducted to either check or ensure that doctors are following this government order.