Govt mulls rules to make prescription of generic drugs mandatory

In a major attempt to reduce healthcare costs across the country, the government plans to bring a legal framework under which it would be mandatory for doctors to prescribe generic drugs, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said.

A generic drug is a generic equivalent to a branded product in dosage, strength, safety, route of administration, quality, performance, intended use and risks.

For example, metform is a well-known generic drug, which is used to lower blood sugar levels in diabetes. Metformin is also available under the brand name 'Glucophage' where the company capitalises on the brand name, not the generic name.

Generic drugs are only cheaper because the manufacturers have not had the expenses of developing and marketing a new drug.

Generic drug active ingredients are chemically identical to their branded counterparts. Hence they are as effective as their brand names, except they are typically sold at a cheaper prices than the branded drugs.

''We are starting Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana for cheaper medicines in hospitals. In the coming days, the government will bring in a legal framework under which the doctors will have to prescribe generic medicines, which are cheaper than equivalent branded drugs, to patients.''

''Doctors write prescriptions in such a way that poor people do not understand the handwriting, and he has to buy medicines from private stores at high prices,'' Modi said, adding, ''We will bring in a legal framework by which if a doctor writes a prescription, he has to write in it that it will be enough for patients to buy generic medicine and he need not buy any other medicine,'' he said.

About reducing the prices of stents and costliest medicines PM Narendra Modi said, ''The Centre had recently introduced a health policy, which came up after nearly 15 years. We called a meeting with the pharmaceutical firms, charging Rs1,200 for injections and medicines worth Rs350 to Rs400, and worked out on the production costs and other expenses.''

''The prices of 700 medicines were capped so that poor people get medicines at reasonable rates when they face chronic diseases,'' Modi said, adding, '' We have framed rules in such a way that those medicines which were available in the market at Rs1,200 had been reduced to Rs70 to Rs80. Through such rules, prices of over 700 such medicines have been reduced.''

''We have also capped the prices of stents used in heart ailments,'' he said.

Modi also stressed on preventive health care saying if people adopt it, they will not have to visit hospitals. ''Preventive healthcare is very important. My Swachhta Abhiyan (cleanliness campaign) is aimed at preventive healthcare as it has been proved that many diseases are contracted if we live in an unclean environment,'' he said, adding, ''Yoga is also very important for wellness and I am running a campaign to make it popular across the world.''

Reports suggest that more than 70 per cent of the over Rs1,00,000 crore Indian pharmaceutical market is flooded with branded generics, whereas patented drugs make up 9 per cent only. Companies spend large amounts on marketing, selling and promotional activities, including incentives for doctors to write more prescriptions of their brands.

The government's move could mean that consumers can ask for a generic drug at the chemist, which will reduce their medical bills substantially.