What's stopping generic medicines from taking over the pharma realm?


5 min read

Gursimran Singh
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Imagine this scenario - a patient goes to a medical shop with a doctor's prescription in hand, seeking advice from a salesperson with no reliable pharmaceutical qualifications. Despite receiving prescriptions from highly esteemed cardiologists, neurologists, or gastroenterologists, patients often trust the opinion of these medical shop representatives, addressing concerns ranging from the quality of the medication to queries about potential side effects.

Concerningly, this is the reality of the pharma realm in today’s landscape. It's intriguing to observe that this level of absolute acceptance doesn't extend to other facets of life; the same individuals who seek a second opinion on their prescribed medications won't question how bad alcohol might be for their health or what could happen to their liver from drinking at a bar or liquor store.

However, the landscape of medical prescriptions in India took a significant turn on August 3, 2023, when the National Medical Council (NMC) mandated doctors to prescribe only generic names and not branded drugs. But, this directive did not evoke the kind of response that was expected. It led to protests by the professionals who questioned the availability and quality and voiced many other concerns.

Amidst the call for generic prescriptions, a crucial dilemma surfaces. Until the government provides concrete evidence that all medicines in the market meet standard quality, doctors should retain the liberty to include the name of a trusted pharmaceutical company in their generic prescriptions. This ensures a layer of accountability and transparency in the prescription process.

Although the Indian Medical Association and related professional associations stress their dedication to offering reasonably priced medications, doubts continue to exist over the dependability of generic drugs. The effectiveness of the pharmaceutical substance has a direct bearing on the doctor's reputation, yet there are concerns regarding who is in charge of enforcing strict quality control measures.

The prevalence of spurious and substandard quality medicines in India, standing at 4.5% and 3.4%, respectively, raises alarms about patient safety. Achieving complete healing requires medicines that are 100% quality-tested. Through its Universal Health Coverage system and private healthcare network, the government must enforce rigorous testing of medicines. Batches that fail quality tests should face bans, with manufacturers subjected to punitive actions. While systems are theoretically in place, their earnest implementation is yet to be witnessed.

Navigating the landscape of over-the-counter medicine sales in India requires finding a harmonious balance between generic prescriptions, ensuring quality, and understanding the crucial role of medical professionals. The emphasis should be on empowering both doctors and patients, ensuring that prescribed medicines are not only budget-friendly but also adhere to the highest quality standards. It's through this joint effort that the healthcare system in India can genuinely prioritise the well-being of its citizens.

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