All India Drug Action Network Demands Substantive Measures
The proposal, as announced by the Prime Minister, to make generic prescription writing mandatory for doctors, would be a useless counterproductive step as a standalone measure. This is because in India no manufacturer markets medicines in the retail market under generic names and hence medicines are not available under generic names in the Indian retail pharmacy shops. Unless manufacturers (except those who are marketing medicines still under patent protection) are made to market medicines under generic name for the retail market, consumers will not get the benefit of ‘generic medicines’. In the absence of universal availability of good quality generic name medicines in retail pharmacy shops, merely getting doctors to start prescribing medicines under generic name will end up in shifting the discretion to pharmacists who will are likely to dispense brands that give them more commission.
If the current government really wants to make available generic-medicines to people it has to take five more steps.
Firstly, it should implement the Hathi Committee’s recommendations made in 1975 to phase out brand-names in a step wise manner.
Secondly quality of all medicines whether generic or otherwise must be ensured by implementing the Mashelkar Committee recommendations made in 2003 regarding adequate increase in the number of drug inspectors and strengthening the quality control infrastructure..
Thirdly there has to be a mandatory, verifiable mechanism which will ensure that a particular batch of medicines found to be substandard, is withdrawn throughout India. Currently the manufacturer can sell such medicines in other states because State Drugs Controllers are independent entities!
Fourthly the Janaushadhi scheme to open generic medicine shops needs to be overhauled and has to take a quantum jump. This scheme started in 2008, is merely a tokenish measure which now aims to set up 3000 Janaushadhi shops by the end of 2017 when there are more than 5 lac chemists in India.
Fifthly, if the government really wants to make medicines affordable, all essential and life saving medicines including their chemical analogues and therapeutic equivalents must be brought under price control which would mean significantly expanding the current list of price-controlled medicines. Prices of these medicines should be fixed by restoring the cost-based formula which was employed since 1979. However, from 2013 the price-control is based on ‘market based’ formula. This led to reduction of prices only by 10-20% on an average. Instead there is need to restore ‘cost based’ formula, with a margin of say 100% on standard cost of production. This would lead to slashing of drug-prices to one-third or one-fourth of current levels, without jeopardising legitimate profits!
In summary this stand alone step announced by the PM of making generic prescriptions mandatory for doctors would only mean that pharmacists will be free to sell any brand, of the generic name prescribed by the doctor. We appeal the government to undertake above mentioned substantive policy measures to make available essential medicines to people at affordable prices rather than indulging in populist slogans. For more information, contact:
Dr. Mira Shiva (09810582028) Dr. Anant Phadke (09423531478)
Dr. Anurag Bhargava (08277408009) Chinu Srinivasan (09998771064)
Dr Gopal Dabade (09448862270)