After his weekly show Satyamev Jayate highlighted the importance of generic drugs as being the key to affordable healthcare for India’s poor, actor Aamir Khan has urged doctors to mandatorily add generic names in the prescription and let patients choose the brand so as not become victims of doctors’ “vested interests”.
However, as an Indian Express report points out, doctors are suddenly up in arms, calling Khan’s proposal as “overly simplistic” and “potentially dangerous”.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a generic drug is identical to or the bioequivalent of a branded drug in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics and intended use. Though chemically identical to branded medicines, the generic drugs are sold at substantially discounted prices, while branded ones are sold at exorbitant rates.
But while medical experts choose to blame the ineffective price regulation of drug prices in India for not popularising generic drugs in India, the reality is that apart from doctors in government hospitals, private doctors often do not suggest generic drugs because there are no kickbacks or incentives involved from pharma companies. Though the Medical Council of India (MCI) guidelines dictate that doctors should prescribe generic medicines as far as possible, very few private practitioners actually do it. And the only way of popularising such drugs is by breaking the doctor-pharma nexus.
Apart from doctors, even the Department of Pharmaceuticals can be blamed for not creating enough awareness about cheaper generic drugs and the aforementioned failure to implement the Jan Ausadhi scheme reinforces that.
But there’s still a silver lining— at least at the state level. While the Karnataka State Cooperative Consumer Federations is going to set up Janatha Bazaar generic drug stores at all hospitals coming under the medical education department, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh has directed all the district hospitals in the state to sell generic drugs. This would help patients get medicines at cheaper rates since the cost of generic drugs is at least 30-40 percent less than the branded drugs despite being equally effective. But one must be careful when buying generic substitutes from unknown pharmaceutical companies since many fakes are available in the market too.