Medical bills are likely to see a drop as the government plans to make it mandatory for doctors to prescribe low-cost generic medicines.
A group of ministers (GoM) has asked health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to fast-track a law, which will also require of pharma firms to disclose all payments made to doctors, in this regard.
“The minister told us that the draft bill is ready and will soon be circulated for the cabinet’s consideration,” a minister, who participated in the GoM, told HT on condition of anonymity.
Price is the real difference between branded and generic drugs, which are low-cost and are not protected by patents.
At present, a 10-tablet strip of Aspirin, a pain-killer, costs, Rs 9.50 but the generic version is available for Rs 1.63.
A drug has at least three names — chemical, generic and a brand name.
The chemical name gives the atomic or molecular structure of the drug and is too complex for general use. So, an official body assigns a generic name to a drug. The brand name is chosen by a manufacturer or a distributor.
High costs of branded medicines contribute up to 40% of an outpatient’s bill, say Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) data.
The proposed law will make it mandatory for pharma firms to disclose payments made to doctors for research, consultancy, travel and entertainment. “It (the law) will have a conflict of interest code for doctors,” an official said.
The ministry has already told state governments to ensure that their doctors prescribe drugs by chemical names and not by brand names as part of its initiative to bear 75 % of the cost towards providing free generic drugs to all by year-end.
The ministry of chemicals and fertilisers has been asked to open its low-cost generic medicine Jan Aushadhi stores, which sell around 500 drugs, in every government hospital.
The GoM on September 27 had proposed price control for 274 more drugs, from the present 74.