Pune: There is a severe need to increase awareness and availability of generic medicines, said Dr Abhay Saraf, Director, State Public Health Department, emphasising that annually seven to eight million people in India get pushed towards poverty due to expenditure on catastrophic illness. A majority of this out-of-pocket expenditure is on pharmaceutical drugs.
Dr Saraf was speaking during a symposium on Monday at Sassoon General Hospital. The programme was on promotion of generic drugs, an initiative by the Public Health Department of the State government. Dr Sanjay Deshmukh, Deputy Director, Public Health Department, Pune Division, was also present.
Dr Saraf said it should be understood that a significant share of healthcare expenditure is on pharmaceuticals. “Expenditure on medicines is one of the major causes of growing out-of-pocket expenditure. The cost of medicine is detrimental to treatment and generic medicines cost 60 per cent to 80 per cent less than branded drugs. India is the largest provider of generic drugs with 20 per cent generic drugs exports,” said Saraf.
Speaking about the scenario of generic medicine consumption in India, he added that yet in India only 3 per cent of generic medicines are consumed. “This is mainly because of the lack of availability when there is requirement and quality concerns raised by doctors. To address such concerns, the government has planned more indigenous manufacturing of medicines and efforts to promote them among all stakeholders. Presently, the health department and the government are supposed to only purchase generic medicines, which would help people lower their out-of-pocket expenditure,” said Dr Saraf.
Dr Sanjay Deshmukh said that generic medicines are identical or within an acceptable bio-equivalent range to their brand counterparts. “They have the same dosage, intended use, risks and strengths. Generic medicines can be marketed only when the patent owner waves its rights, patent and exclusivity protection ends and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements are met,” stressed Dr Deshmukh.
He added that presently one of the major challenges for generic medicines is that lack of well functioning systems to manage procurement, distribution, warehousing and dispensing of the medicines. “The stores of generic medicines should be more at district and rural levels so that it benefits the poor. Pune has around five to eight stores of generic medicines, while Mumbai has only 15,” said Deshmukh.
Cause of concern
† Expenditure on medicines is growing
† Cost of medicine detrimental to treatment
† Generic Medicines cost 60-80% less than branded drugs
† India is the largest provider of generic drugs and yet only 2% is consumed here
What are Generic drugs?
A generic drug is a pharmaceutical drug that is equivalent to a brand-name product in dosage, strength, route of administration, quality, performance and intended use, but does not carry the brand name. The generic drug may differ from the original in non-essential characteristics such as colour, taste and packaging.