Once in a while, there are calls from some quarters regarding the prescription of generic drugs by the doctors in Jammu and Kashmir. Generic medicines are copycat versions of branded drugs and are equal to their recognized counterparts in terms of strength, quality, efficacy, and safety, thus says the Doctors Association Kashmir.
As they cost 80 to 90 percent less than the branded medicines, the doctors body says it would make drugs accessible to poor patients who are otherwise finding it hard to buy expensive branded medicines.
The progressive step to say the least was recommended by the erstwhile Planning Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on Universal Health Coverage very long ago. While the step will surely reform the way essential medicines are distributed to patients, those in favour of the status quo on price and distribution have succeeded so far.
It is important to note that competition often leads to substantial lowering of prices for both the original brand-name product and its generic equivalents.
According to an analysis by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association carried almost seven years ago, generics accounted for 88% of the 4.3 billion prescriptions filled in the US.
The code of ethics issued by the Medical Council of India in 2002 calls for doctors to prescribe drugs by their generic names only.
The relative merits of branded and generic drugs have been discussed, with varying opinions. The solution to the problem of branded versus generic drugs only lies in strengthening the existing quality control structure. The government needs to work on all fronts including strengthening the quality control makeup.
Efforts from the government agencies are lacking on awareness on the availability of affordable alternatives to expensive brands. It is a known fact that majority of the cancer patients die for want of treatment because they cannot afford expensive branded drugs. While generic drugs make treatment affordable to poor, researches have shown that generic drugs significantly reduce deaths among cancer patients.
The government must work to make it a reality and ensure that problems of the past do not come in achieving the endeavor for the larger public good. In past, one of the persistent problems with low-cost access systems has been the non-availability of specific drugs and as such work should be started to have a transparent supply chain managed by government-run procurement agencies.