Government vows to make generic prescriptions mandatory

Amid allegations that nothing is being done to control the high prices of essential drugs and the doctor-pharmaceutical company nexus fleecing patients by promoting costly branded drugs, the government on Thursday said it has proposed a regulation by which every physician would prescribe drugs with generic names legibly and preferably in capital letters and shall ensure that there is a rational prescription and use of drugs.

The ethics committee regulation of the Medical Council of India is proposed to be modified by saying, "Every physician should prescribe drugs with generic names legibly and preferably in capital letters and he / she shall ensure that there is a rational prescription and use of drugs," said the minister for chemicals and fertilisers Ananth Kumar.

Responding to a calling attention motion in the Rajya Sabha on high price of essential medicines by Samajwadi Party MP Naresh Agarwal, Ananth Kumar said since drug price control order of 2013, a total of 1,040 essential medicines have been brought under national list of essential medicine leading to savings of Rs4,988 crore to the consumers.

The government is also increasing the number of Jan Aushudi outlets from 350 to 3,000 in the country by the end of the year for free sale of essential drugs to the needy and has specifically asked the ministry of health to allow pharmacists to substitute generic medicines for prescription in brand name medicines, added Kumar.

His reply, however, did not satisfy several members, especially Aggarwal who retorted that "it is not a small game but a game worth thousands of crores. I don't consider government's statistic as correct. Government statistics never tell the truth. In India 93,000 medicines are being sold by brand names - what difference has the government made if it have reduced the prices of 1,000 odd medicines?"

Citing examples of differential pricing, Aggarwal said, "Cipla makes one medicine by three names and has kept different price for each. Cipla sells its branded Cetrizine that we take for anti-allergy for Rs39. The same Citrizine is available for Rs2 and by the name of Oxocid is available for Rs2.27.

''The government has rules to control generic medicines but not branded ones. Branded Diclofenac medicine is available for Rs29 but as generic can be purchased for Rs2.29. Generic Azithromycin can be purchased for Rs58 but the branded version costs Rs308."

Alleging that doctors write in ineligible handwriting that can be read only by chemists, Agarwal also asked the government how it is going to ensure and implement the decision that it says has made mandatory for doctors to write generic names and not the branded names of medicines.