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You must insist doctor for generic name of drugs

Do you ever compare prices of different brands of medicines before purchase? I would suggest that you do it - you will be surprised at how much money you can save. Pushpa Girimaji reports.

india Updated: Jun 11, 2011 23:43 IST
Pushpa Girimaji

Do you ever compare prices of different brands of medicines before purchase? I would suggest that you do it - you will be surprised at how much money you can save.

We all know that generic drugs cost much less than the branded ones - it is for this reason that consumer activists in the health sector have for long been demanding that doctors write the generic names of drugs. The central government and many state governments have now instructed all hospitals, dispensaries and health centres under their jurisdiction to prescribe only generic drugs and avoid brand names.

But not many of us are aware of the fact that even among the brands, prices of medicines vary and in many cases, the difference in price could be quite substantial.

Last week, for example, I went to pick up an antibiotic for a friend. When I gave the prescription, the chemist told me that the drug prescribed by the doctor cost Rs 241 for six capsules, while another brand of the same medicine cost Rs 72 for six. Both were products of well known pharmaceutical companies. After cross-checking the generic name, I asked the chemist to give me the one that cost Rs 72.

So whenever your doctor prescribes a medicine, ask him to write the generic name too. If it's a government hospital or dispensary, then the doctor has to give only the generic name. In fact, the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations 2002 mandate that "Every physician should, as far as possible, prescribe drugs with generic name and he/she shall ensure that there is a rational prescription and use of drugs". So demand that the doctor prescribes medicine by the generic name.

Knowing the generic name not only helps you avoid errors in the purchase of medicines caused by similar sounding brand names, but also helps you buy the generic drug or even among the branded ones, purchase the one that costs much less. So once you have the generic name, you can ask your chemist to give you price options, but make sure that you have the right medication - you must particularly keep in mind the strength of the medication prescribed by the doctor and also whether there are any other specifications such as sustained release or extended release.

There are also a number of websites that help you know the generic name of the brand prescribed by the doctor. Genericdrugfinder.com is one such site that tries to help consumers reduce cost of medication through purchase of generic drugs. Patientindia.com is more specific to India and helps you compare prices of different brands. So you can do your homework before purchase or even ask the chemist to help you.

Vimla Naik: My doctor had prescribed a medication for arthritis, but the chemist sold me a drug for high blood pressure. I came to know of this only when I visited my doctor a week later, saying that the medicine was not suiting me. Is there any action that I can take against the chemist?

Answer: This is sheer negligence on the part of the chemist and he has to take responsibility for it. File a complaint before the district consumer disputes redressal forum, seeking compensation from the chemist for the adverse effects suffered by you on account of the wrong medication. You should also lodge a formal complaint against the chemist with the state drug control authority. But in future, I would suggest that you insist on the doctor writing down the generic name of the drug too. This will help reduce such errors.