Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Tuesday directed all Central government hospitals and institutions to give generic names of drugs along with the brandname on all prescriptions.
“Branded medicines cost between four and six times more than generic ones. People should have the option of buying cheaper, good quality unbranded medicine. States have been requested to do the same,” said Azad.
A branded antibiotic such as Ciprofloxicin 500 mg, for example, costs Rs 84.20 when sold under the brandname Ciplox, and for Rs 21.50 when sold under its generic name.
The move will impact a dozen centrally-run hospitals and over 400 central government health scheme dispensaries. For the National Rural Health Mission, the Centre already provides Rs 500-crore worth of generic drugs to states for centrally-funded schemes.
Concerned by the trend of pharmaceutical multinationals acquiring Indian drug majors, Azad has called for a meeting with Indian drug companies.
“I’ve asked for a meeting with pharma industry leaders to find out the reason. It’s a worrying trend because 95 per cent of the medicines used in India are generics made here. If such acquisitions continue, multinationals will gain market supremacy and people may have to pay through their noses for essential medicine,” he said.
Multinationals have been increasing their presence here through acquisitions. Since 2008, some of the acquisitions have been Piramal Healthcare by Abbott Labs, Ranbaxy by Daiichi Sankyo, Shantha Biotech by Sanofi Aventis and Dabur Pharma by Fresenuis Kabi.
India’s Rs 100,000 crore pharma industry exports about 40 per cent — worth Rs 39,000 crore in 2009 — of its products. “Low cost good quality generic drugs make medical treatment a viable option not just for people in India but many other developing countries.”
Azad dismissed reports of counterfeit drugs from India flooding the world. “In the World Health Assembly (WHA) last week, India took up the issue of commercially-motivated debates over ‘counterfeit’ drugs... We got the WHA to agree to stop generics from being seized on charges of being counterfeit,” he said.