Even after the Ministry of Health issued a directive that mandated doctors to prescribe generic medicines in place of costly branded medicines, many doctors in the national capital region are not adhering to the advisory.
This reporter’s visit to multiple chemist stores and leading pharmacies in Delhi and the national capital region revealed that doctors are openly violating the Centre’s advisory and are prescribing branded medicines to patients. The non-compliance of the doctors is impacting the availability and promotion of generic medicines in the market.
“After Prime Minister Narendra Modi directed doctors to prescribe generic medicines we stocked them. But people still come with prescription of branded drugs,” revealed a pharmacist in Malviya Nagar market in south Delhi.
Generic medicines are non-branded drugs that have the same single ingredient, which cures the disease, as the branded ones. The difference is in the pricing. Generic versions of branded drugs cost around 20-50% less. However, owing to the unethical nexus between doctors and pharma giants, branded drugs account for 90% of the total sales. Unbranded generic medicines are sold only in public health centres and government-owned pharmacies such as Jan Aushadhi Stores.
“We stock what sells. There are definitely cheaper versions of the similar medicine, but there is no demand for them. For instance, there are varieties of cetirizine in the market ranging between Rs 25 and Rs 50 for a strip of 10 tablets. But it goes without saying that the demand for the costlier brand is always higher,” the pharmacist noted.
A pharmacist in the bustling market of Sector 18 in Noida told this newspaper that doctors have now identified a loophole in the directive, which mandates them not to prescribe costly medicines. While these doctors adhere to the advisory and prescribe generic drugs, they write the preferred brand name in bracket. This indirectly influences the market.
“This is like doing the same thing differently. Moreover, even if they tell people that the same medicine is available at a much cheaper price, they insist on providing the ones recommended by the doctors,” he said.
Another retailer of medicinal drugs in Malviya Nagar inveighed against the “unique” form of drug promotion adopted by doctors, where they write a generic prescription but verbally advise the patients to demand a specific brand from the chemists.
“There’s huge confusion on whether or not to stock generic drugs. The prescription mentions the generic name, but patients demand specific brands as suggested by the doctors. Now if any health inspector pays a surprise visit to us, we will be held for not stocking generics. What do we do?” he complained.
Last month, PM Modi announced that the government would map out a “legal framework” to ensure that doctors prescribe generic drugs. Several doctors and big drug companies opposed the move. A recent survey conducted by Curofy, an online community of verified doctors, claims that 73% doctors are against the prescription of generic drugs.