Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement that a legal framework would be in place to make it mandatory for doctors to prescribe generic medicines instead of branded medicines would come as a much-needed palliative to India’s populace if and when the law is implemented.
This is not to say that there was a lack of efforts on the part of the authorities concerned to promote generic medicines. Apart from the government, even the Medical Council of India had given directions to the doctors to prescribe generic medicines.
But, all these efforts and these prescribed norms have found very few takers among doctors due to lack of committed and effective strategies to make it materialise. In fact, ethical practices require the doctors to mention only the chemical names of the drugs. But we often come across instances of this cardinal rule being flouted with impunity.
Doctors justify their recommendation of branded drugs by pointing out that since generic medicines do not have the same quality as branded drugs they could not risk the lives of patients by prescribing the Indian versions of branded drugs. Doctors also express apprehensions they would be blamed and pilloried if the drugs prove to be substandard and ineffective.
The question is whether there is any justification in this contention. This lack of credibility is quite ironical considering the fact that Indian generics have a strong presence in global markets, specifically in America and Europe. If the generic medicines manufactured in India are substandard, how is it that they are being preferred in the highly conscious and fastidious American and European markets?
If the argument offered is about the low-cost of generics attracting global markets, then it is ridiculous to assume that these countries prefer cheap drugs even if it means risking the lives of their people.
The truth is that multinational companies with their money power to deploy no-holds-barred promotion strategies have managed to have a strong sway over the medical fraternity. Unfortunately, this has also had cascading influence on the consumers in India who have more confidence in branded drugs and a rather skeptical attitude towards generics.
Of course, this is not to say that consumers are expected to know the difference between good and bad quality medicines. They simply have to take what the doctor ordered. India has established its credentials and expertise in producing a wide spectrum of medicines across a majority of therapeutic and prophylactic segments.
Except for some essential drugs, the Indian generic sector is producing an entire gamut of medicines for the treatment of various ailments like diabetes, cardiovascular problems and infectious diseases.
A ‘Made in India’ efficacious generic is available for most of health-related problems and that too at 20% to 30% of the price tag attached to branded drugs. Going by the earlier experience of failed and futile approaches, the only curative that is required to ensure that the common man have access to the generics is to formulate an appropriate law.