April 20, 2017
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recent statement making clear his Government’s intentions to bring in a legal framework to check the practice of doctors prescribing only branded drugs and medicines and not the cheaper generic ones should come as a relief for the poorer sections making drugs more affordable.
Many of the life- saving medicines are still not within the reach of the common man, even when the country claims to be a leader in drug manufacturing.
Covai Post caught up with the medical fraternity to know what Modi’s plan will mean to the common man. While some dubbed it as `political gimmick’, another section felt it was a panacea for the common man.
Dr Ramamurthy, Dean of PSG Medical College and Research Center said as health is a fundamental constitutional right, every citizen has a right to access quality health care and medicines.
“But yes, we are in a piteous condition, though Indian pharma companies do manufacture lots of genuine generic drugs most of which are exported to developed countries. So what we are left with is branded drugs for which we pay a premium,” he said.
Standardization of generic drugs in the country is yet to stabilize in the absence of a good monitoring agencies and political will on the part of the government. The office of the Drug Controller General of India has failed to check increasing drug prices over the years. .
Dr Ramamurthy said generic drug standardization has to happen and its availability ensured before such measures are introduced. Even a common drug like crocin (analgesic) has three variants, and the efficacy of drugs manufactured by market leaders are on the basis of a proven formula, while generic varieties are yet to win public confidence.
Doctors admits that the Indian pharma sector cannot b credited with any original drug discovery. Only when that is done can affordable drugs be sold to all, they add.
Some in the sector attribute privatization of the Health sector, starting in the mid-1980s, as the prime cause for the poor health care delivery system. While cities are served by corporate hospitals, rural areas are left to languish.
Budgetary allocation for the health sector has remained abysmally low, they point out. It hovers round just 1.5 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product when it is 12 per cent in the US.
While Dr. Annamalai said the capping of prices of 700 life-saving drugs was boon for the poor, the introduction of generic drugs would do much good to the poorest.
Drug prices leave a big hole in the patient’s pocket and his family budget. The government is already testing the waters with Jan Aushadi medical stores, selling generic drugs under the Prime Minister’s Jan Aushadi Pariyojana scheme. Coimbatore has such a shop on Sathy Road near Ganapathy..
“If one person in a middle class family falls ill, it causes financial wreck of the whole family. The man’s commitments like the education and marriage of his children go awry,” Modi had said while hinting at the Government proposal on generic drugs.