Branded drugs need to be phased out: Doctors’ groups

NEW DELHI: Doctors and public health groups have come together to suggest that the government should phase out branded drugs in a calibrated manner and ban differential pricing under different brands to promote generic drug prescriptions. This comes in the wake of PM Narendra Modi’s announcement that the government was working on a legal framework to ensure that doctors mandatorily prescribed low cost generic medicines.

Following the PM’s announcement, the Medical Council of India had reiterated that doctors should prescribe generic name of medicines and said that violations would invite action under the law. All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN), a group of public health activists and doctors, said the PM’s proposal to make generic prescription mandatory for doctors would be a useless and counterproductive step as a standalone measure. It urged the government to gradually phase out branded drugs, so that all medicines (except patented drugs) were available under the same generic name and not just doctors, but even pharmacists are unable to push specific brands.
“In the absence of universal availability of good quality generic-name medicines at retail pharmacy shops, merely getting doctors to start prescribing medicines under generic name will end up shifting the discretion to pharmacists who are likely to dispense brands that give them more commission,” AIDAN said.

At present, most pharmaceutical companies market medicines under brand names. Moreover, it allows not only doctors to write brands of their choice but also retailers or chemists to push for brands or even generic drugs with higher margins.

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The Indian Medical Association (IMA), along with other doctors’ associations, also recommended ending differential pricing for generic drugs. During an emergency meeting, the IMA said drug manufacturers were milking profits by selling the generic version of the same medicine under different trade names when there was no difference in its quality or efficacy.

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Both IMA and AIDAN also recommended various other measures, including quality control, to promote good quality affordable drugs. “The medical fraternity collectively wants the government to strengthen quality control mechanisms to ensure adherence to good manufacturing practices…,” IMA secretary general Dr R N Tandon said.
AIDAN said the government’s Janaushadhi scheme to open generic medicine shops needed to be overhauled. “This scheme is merely a tokenish measure. It aims to set up 3,000 Janaushadhi shops by the end of 2017 when there are more than 5 lakh chemists in India,” it said.

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