Thursday, May 26, 2011



Source: The Economic Times, India
Publication date: 2011-05-23
Arrival time: 2011-05-24

By Khomba Singh, The Economic Times, India

May 23--NEW DELHI: The government may make it mandatory for all doctors to write the generic or chemical name of drugs they prescribe, a move that can cut medicine costs by more than half.
Last year, the health ministry had asked doctors in over 300 central government hospitals, clinics and autonomous institutions under it to write the name of the generic equivalent along with the brand.
Minister of state for chemical and fertiliser Srikant Jena now plans to approach the health ministry and the Union cabinet to make it a national-level initiative that will also cover doctors in private hospitals and clinics.
This means that instead of prescribing, say, Crocin, doctors will have to specify the generic name, paracetamol, an unbranded version of which retails for a fourth of the branded medicine cost and has the same therapeutic efficacy.
Jena told ET that the government is examining legal implications of a proposed intervention either through an advisory or a directive since health is a state subject. "Generic drugs can reduce cost of medicines by 50% and is the best way to reduce the cost of drugs," he said.
Delhi and Rajasthan have already asked doctors in all state government-run hospitals to prescribe only the generic names of medicines. Drugs worth 48,000 crore are sold every year by over five lakh chemists and about 10,000 crore in hospitals and clinics.
The government also plans to launch an awareness campaign to educate the public about the benefits of buying generic drugs and force doctors to give the option to buy a cheaper version of the medicine.
Jena said: "Doctors prescribe branded drugs because they are not properly told about generics. A campaign needs to be carried out both at the state and the central level. The impression among public is that cheap drugs have low efficacy…Even in the US and other developed markets, doctors write generic equivalents."
Unlike other commodities, consumers cannot choose from different brands and drugmakers spend crores of rupees to convince doctors to promote their particular brand over others. Pharma companies also often give expensive gifts and pay for travel of doctors, practices considered unethical that eventually drive up the cost of treatment.

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