New Delhi: In a major attempt to reduce healthcare costs across the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hinted at bringing a legal framework under which doctors will have to prescribe generic medicines to patients.
What are generic drugs?
A generic drug is a pharmaceutical drug that is equivalent to a brand-name product in dosage, strength, safety, route of administration, quality, performance, intended use and risks.
For example, metform is a well known generic drug, which is used to lower blood sugar levels in diabetes. Metformin is also available under the brand name Glucophage - brand names are usually capitalized while generic names are not.
Why are generic drugs cheaper? Are they as good as brand names?
Generic drugs are only cheaper because the manufacturers have not had the expenses of developing and marketing a new drug.
Yes. Generic drug active ingredients are chemically identical to their branded counterparts. Hence they are as effective as their brand names, except they are typically sold at a cheaper price than the brand-name drug.
Reports suggest that more than 70% of the over Rs 1 lakh crore Indian pharmaceutical market is flooded by branded generics, whereas patented drugs make up 9% only. Companies spend large amounts on marketing, selling and promotional activities which also include pushing doctors write more prescriptions of their brands.
However, the government's move could mean that consumers can ask for a generic drug at the chemist, which will reduce their medical bills concurrently.