SC to look into availability of generic drugs

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 14 2014, 06:57am hrs
The Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to examine a PIL that sought better access to generic drugs and vaccines, besides implementation of the 2002 national health policy aimed at purchasing and promoting such cheaper medicine.

A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra issued a notice to the Centre, all states and Union Territories, and Drugs Controller of India on a PIL filed by advocate Reepak Kansal that sought a direction to states/Centre to purchase generic drugs and to ensure that people below poverty line were getting adequate treatment.

It also appointed senior advocate BH Mariapalle as an amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter.

The judges said that despite there being a policy for generic drugs and vaccines it was not followed in proper perspective as a result of which cheaper medicines of same generic composition were not available.

The PIL also stated that drugs were being prescribed by the medical practitioners by brand name instead of generic name and a majority of the population had no means to buy expensive branded drugs manufactured by big companies.

Even doctors in rural areas prescribe medicines (mostly non-generic) to the patients who are left with no choice to buy them on their own as most of the dispensaries and public health centres do not stock them, thus, forcing them to discontinue the treatment as they cannot afford them beyong a point.

It is to be noted that more than 70% of India's population lives in rural areas and nearly 40% of the population is either below the poverty line or hovering close to it. Public health care is the only option for millions of the rural poor who cannot afford the costly private health care and medicine in the country, the petition said, ading generic medicines despite being cheap by 70% than their branded versions are equally potent.

Seeking a direction to the state governments to issue guidelines to medical practitioners within their jurisdiction to give preference to drugs by its generic name while prescribing medicines, Kansal claimed that generic drugs account for nearly 85% of medicines prescribed in the US and the government is relying on them to help rein in healthcare costs.

The petition sought direction to the Centre and state governments to purchase and stock generic drugs in hospitals and public health centres and to buy the branded ones only in extreme exigency.