Sunday, May 19, 2013
Last Updated: 18 May 21:00 PM IST
30 November 2012
statesman news service
KOLKATA, 30 NOV: The state government will open the first batch of fair price medicine shops in five hospitals in West Bengal in the second week of December, a state Health Department spokesperson said today.
It should mean that 142 affordable “generic” medicines ~ off-patent cheaper versions of a drug ~ are more easily available for patients who find it difficult to pay for treatment, Mr Asit Biswas said. The first five government hospitals to open their stores will be MR Bangur, Barasat District Hospital, Jalpaiguri District Hospital, North Bengal Medical College and Hospital and Midnapore Medical College and Hospital.
According to the Planning Commission, about 70 per cent of healthcare expenditure in India comes from peoples’ own pockets, and 70 to 80 per cent of this money goes to drugs.
Some consumer groups have accused doctors of prescribing branded drugs to patients rather than their cheaper off-patent equivalents, despite rules to stop this happening.
“Most of the doctors in India promote branded or branded generics only because either they are unaware about the generic names or they find it easy to recall the names because of frequent visits by medical representative of pharma companies,” says Mr Bejon Misra, founder of the Partnership for Safe Medicines, India, a public health organisation. “Some doctors do it because of incentives linked to prescriptions and promotion of branded medicines.”
Mr Misra said arguments that generic medicines are risky are unfounded. “Generic Medicines are as safe and of high quality as branded generics or branded medicines”.
Patients at government hospitals in Kolkata appear unaware of whether the drugs they are prescribed are branded or non-branded versions. “We haven't thought about these things,” said Mr Shankar Shaw, at MR Bangur Hospital. “What the doctor says, I take.” Another patient's relative, Mr Pintu Das, agreed. One doctor at MR Bangur said she usually prescribes generic drugs but when she thinks a branded version made by an international companies is more effective, she prescribes that.
In her opinion, it is pharmacy owners that tend to fleece patients as they have agreements with some medical companies. “The shop owners then take advantage, they sell something with less efficiency but they get more commission,” she said. The fair price medicine shops set up within the hospital premises should mean this doesn't happen, she said.
Health Department spokesperson Mr Biswas did not comment on whether these new fair price medicine shops would mean doctors are more likely to prescribe generic drugs. There are already rules in place for that, he said, adding that this is just the beginning of the roll out. “Let us see, as soon as a few here start their functioning, we can see if there are any problems and take it from there.”