Doctors may not favor a brand now; Reinventing the wheel on generic drugs; humanrescueintermedia

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Reinventing the wheel on generic drugs
Abantika Ghosh
Posted online: 2012-10-03 01:04:16+05:30

Four years after it made a decent beginning in promoting non-branded generic drugs through the Jan Ausadhi scheme, meant to dispense quality, low-cost medication from government stores, the UPA government is set to re-invent the wheel by making it mandatory for doctors to prescribe “generic drugs”.

Jan Ausadhi stores — 119 in all, 53 in Rajasthan — languish in corners of government offices selling instant noodles and other FMCG products. The presumptions in the proposed law are many, but the one that stands out in its naivete is that the doctors-pharma nexus is the only kind that pollutes and inflates drug-pricing mechanisms, ignoring almost completely the chemist who is the final interface between the patient and his medicine.

So, even if a doctor now does prescribe paracetamol instead of crocin, it leaves the chemist free to sell paracip or flexon. And the patient, while he may still choose between two brands of a common drug such as paracetamol, may end up leaving the choice to the chemist when it comes to choosing between two brands of, say, an anti-Parkinsons drug.

So what the law will do is nullify the doctor’s “information bias” — so to speak — for the chemists’ business bias when the doctor at least is trained to weigh a drug’s efficacy.

The million dollar question — or at least the Rs 20,000 crore question (the expected budget of the free drugs scheme) — is why having begun well by targeting the supply chain through its generic drugs outlets, does the government want to leave it half done and tackle the problem from a different end?

With a Central Procurement Agency (CPA) along the lines of the Tamil Nadu State Medical Supplies Corporation in the offing, there are many who believe that the state’s experience could be replicated across the country. The government role as a bulk procurer in the state has had a pacifying effect on the medicine market as a whole.

Or is the Health Ministry, spooked by a non-starter CPA six months after its original deadline, buying itself an insurance?

Abantika is an Assistant Editor based in New Delhi

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