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Apr 18, 2017 10:12 AM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

A new law to make docs prescribe generics? PM Modi hints as much

"Doctors write prescription in such a way that poor people do not understand the handwriting and he has to buy that medicine from private stores at high prices,’’ said Prime Minister Narendra Modi , while inaugurating a multi-specialty hospital in Surat on Monday.

A new law to make docs prescribe generics? PM Modi hints as much

Viswanath Pilla

Moneycontrol News

In a move that can rattle pharmaceutical companies and doctors, Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently hinted that the government could be bringing a new law to ensure doctors prescribe generic drugs instead of the current practice of branded names.

"Doctors write the prescription in such a way that poor people do not understand the handwriting and he has to buy that medicine from private stores at high prices,’’ said Prime Minister Narendra Modi , while inaugurating a multi-specialty hospital in Surat on Monday.

"We will bring in a legal framework by which if a doctor writes prescription, he has to write in it that it will be enough for patients to buy generic medicines and not buy any other medicines," Modi added.

"See these companies which are manufacturing medicines, they used to charge Rs 1,200 for an injection. We called everyone (pharma companies) and ensured that the prices are reduced. The prices of 700 medicines were capped so that poor people get medicines at reasonable rates when they face grave diseases," Modi said.

To be sure the government has been contemplating such a move for a while. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Union Budget speech proposed to amend the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules to ensure availability of drugs at reasonable prices and promote use of generic medicines.

Analysts who track the sector say that the Prime Minister’s statement hints at government intention in making prescribing of generics mandatory.

It is generally believed that many doctors predominantly prescribe mostly those brands, which are promoted by a pharmaceutical company even when a low-cost generic substitute is available.

However, doctors maintain that to get the best possible outcome, drugs of the highest quality and best possible pharmacological properties should be prescribed, and they usually prescribe drug brands that meet this criteria.

Meanwhile, the Indian government has been trying to make drugs affordable and is urging doctors to prescribe generic drugs as far as possible. To make drug prices cheaper the government is including more medicines into the National List of Essential Medicines.

The government has also launched Jan Aushadhi programme, under which the government provides essential medicines at reasonable rates at specially established shops to provide affordable generic drugs to the poor.

Big Indian generic makers who are facing intense competition and pricing pressure in the domestic market are worried.

"This will be a significant change if introduced and pharma companies will have to alter their marketing strategies," said Bhavik Narsana, Partner, Khaitan & Co.

Industry bodies like Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance are concerned by the move on grounds that it empowers chemists over the doctor to decide which particular generic brand to dispense to the patient.

Another industry executive who works for one of India's top-5 branded generic drug makers in domestic market echoed the same sentiment.

It’s unfair to compare India and the US on generic substitution, as US ensures the drugs sold in that country maintain uniform quality standards. In India, the disparity in terms of quality varies significantly from supplier to supplier, and quality doesn't come cheap, the executive above said on condition of anonymity.

Indian pharmaceutical market which is worth little over a trillion rupees is a branded generic market – with thousands of copycat brands competing against each other, forcing some of the bigger companies to spend large amounts on marketing, selling and promotional activities to make doctors write more prescriptions of their brands.

(With inputs from PTI)
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