As per the study conducted by Journal of Drug Delivery and Therapeutics, about 62% of healthcare providers want to substitute generic drugs but not for all the cases they treat, thus indicates the perception of the efficacy of the two classes of medicines.
By Dr. Sujit Paul
With the escalating cost of healthcare facilities, many people in India started to opt for generic medicines. The solution of generic medicines is way cheaper than branded drugs and is backed by the Government of India which made it mandatory for the physicians to prescribe the generic names. Generic medicines are affordable versions of the branded drugs which are introduced once the patent acquired by the drug manufacturer expires. These drugs are dispensed either by a brand or salt name.
Generic medicines are usually identical as a proprietary drug that has a brand name because of which the chemical composition of the medicine is sold as. Without any difference, the generic drug is the same in potency, dose, and method of intake, quality, and implications and works the same as the branded medicine. As per Indian household, the term ‘generic’ implies the drug is a cheaper, less effective and duplicate version of the brand name product. In reality, generic drugs are of the same quality and as effective as of the branded medicine. These medicines might contain Inactive Pharmaceutical ingredients like suspending agents, demulcents etc which do not disturb the body for curing illness.
There are different phases through which a drug is developed and reviewed. As per the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the authority is responsible for the evaluation of the drugs as a generic medicine. The conducted studies show that both branded and generic medicines are bio-equivalent. The authority also confirmed that the generic medicines have the same amount of pharmaceutical ingredients and adhere to the manufacturing practices requirement but differ in size, color and shape.
How proprietary medicine becomes generic?
According to law, when a new medicine is manufactured and marketed, it is protected under a patent for a specific time period. Once the patent-protected time expires, the other company can manufacture and market the drug until the time it has the same active pharmaceutical ingredients similar to their branded counterparts. The generic drug is cheaper as the manufacturer did not incur any costs of the original research, testing and marketing similar to the branded drug manufacturer. Bioequivalent tests are conducted for generic drugs to ensure and guarantee the bioequivalence is the same as the branded medicine. Bioequivalence implies when two medicines are similar; they have a physiological action on the user. The term applies to the pharmaceutically equivalent medicines within which the bioavailability rate of active pharmaceutical ingredients is same under several tests conditions to achieve peak blood concentrations.
India is counted amongst the largest supplier of generic drugs across the world and the pharmaceutical industry has helped in reducing the healthcare costs of many nations by exporting the medicines. As per the survey conducted in 2014 by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) on healthcare shows the staggering number of 82% in urban and 86% of the rural population not covered under any scheme of health expenditure support.
Healthcare expenses pushed 60 million Indians beneath the poverty line in the year 2011. Therefore, even the slightest drop in the medicine prices will free several households from medical poverty. Inexpensive medicines are one of the most important factors for reducing healthcare cost.
On April 2017, the Medical Council of India released a notification which stated it is mandatory for the physicians to prescribe the drugs by using generic names. The infusion of generic substitution is supported by health authorities in several developed countries and why it is important to conduct bioequivalence tests and prescribing drug spending. Such requirements might raise the generic drugs prices a bit but is useful in lowering the overall healthcare expenses. Somehow these practices will also combat with the distrust for the generic medicines amongst people who perceive such drugs as of inferior quality and counterfeit of the branded drug.
Exposure to the environment, personality and beliefs has a huge impact on the perception formation. Any action taken by a person is highly influenced by a particular incident or event. Factors such as economic status, culture society and educational status craft each individual’s society. And such factors also shape up the perception of generic drugs over branded medicines. As per the World Health Organization, all the essential medicines should be accessible and affordable to the public equally.
As per the study conducted by Journal of Drug Delivery and Therapeutics, about 62% of healthcare providers want to substitute generic drugs but not for all the cases they treat, thus indicates the perception of the efficacy of the two classes of medicines. Also, physicians are doubtful about the efficiency of generic medicines which implies the lack of confidence and knowledge for its usage. 92% of the people had heard about the generic drugs while 8% did not have any idea about it. Out of 92, 70% of them understand the difference between branded and generic drugs while 14% of 92 believed that generic drugs were not cheaper than branded drugs. 50% of people prefer to purchase generic over branded medicines while 47.8% believe branded drugs are more effective than generic.
In the midst of different opinions about the low quality and efficiency of generic drugs, 84% of people want that Government and concerned authorities should promote generic medicines and heard about the Medical Council of India’s policy of mandating the generic drugs prescription. Majority of them confirmed about readily preferring generic medicines if healthcare professionals recommend the same while about 35% denied accepting generic substitution suggested by a pharmacist.
The conclusion of the above study shows several policies have been implemented to ensure the healthcare amenities are affordable through the promotion of generic drugs by the Government of India but the ignorance of public about medicines didn’t let them understand the different facets of healthcare. This can be rectified through Government campaigns, physicians and pharmacists because the public perceives them as an authentic source of information.
(The author is MD of StayHappi Pharmacy. Views expressed are personal.)