Generics for Generation Old
All of you know that medicines are cheap when bought under their generic name rather than certain brand names. For example, a strip of Ten Crocin (Paracetamol 500 mg tablets) costs RS 10 while non branded plain Paracetamol costs only Rs 2.50 per strip. At times the difference could be even ten times. Though there is huge price difference, there are a couple of issues in using Generic drugs.
First and foremost, most doctors prefer to prescribe only branded drugs of leading big manufacturers. While reliability of quality may be point of concern, mostly it is the bribe the doctor gets that induces him to prescribe brand named drugs. Large companies spend very heavy amounts to promote their products. This is a fact and reported many times through several market studies and surveys.
In view of the cost benefits to the public and patients, the governments of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have made rules that in government hospitals only generics may be prescribed by government doctors. How about private medical practioners? They can not be forced to prescribe only generics, sacrificing their lucrative earnings. We have identified a few family physicians who are senior friendly and they have agreed to re-write the prescription translating brand names to generics thus helping the patients greatly. This kind of circumvention is necessary as our pharmacy regulations insist that scheduled drugs may be dispensed only strictly according to prescription and the pharmacist has no permission to sunbstitute one for the other. Senior citizens organizations should come forward to identify such family physicians in every locality.
Among senior citizens also many entertain the idea that costly medicines are of good quality and cheap medicines are of poor quality. This is not a fact. There may be a few bad manufacturers who may sacrifice quality. Even among generic manufacturers there are many competing firms and a good doctor can identify reputed generic manufacturers easily through his experience. Another way to ease the situation is to request the doctor to give alternatives in the prescription itself.
As Sri Harinarayan Chairman of IRDA pointed out recently, there is nothing preventing senior citizens associations coming together and setting up medical shops to sell generics exclusively. This has already started happening, as such shops in Vijayawada and Guntur have come up. Recently the government of Andhra Pradesh has decided to set up about 170+ medical shops only to sell generics through out AP. The central government's Jan Aushadhi Scheme is an utter flop due to large scale mis-management. Let us hope the state government scheme is run properly and proves useful. With a dynamic and committed bureaucrat like Dr Ramesh (Principal Secretary, Health, AP) at the helm of affairs, this is not impossible.