As healthcare costs and drug prices continue to increase in countries across the world, governments and policy makers are beginning to actively promote both the development and the use of generic drugs.
Generics are cost-effective alternatives to brand name drugs, that can be used interchangeably, but can be sold at a fraction of the cost. These medicines are identical to brand name drugs in dosage, strength, route of administration, performance characteristics, safety and intended use.
Given the inherent value of such pharmaceutical products, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has recently indicated that his government will create a legal framework under which physicians will be required to prescribe a generic medicine, over a brand name drug, whenever one exists on the market.
India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, but the country’s wealth gap is staggering, and the majority of the country’s population live in low- to middle-income households. As such, Modi’s proposed legislation would be hugely beneficial and would allow greater access to important, potentially life-saving medications.
Speaking at the inauguration of a charitable hospital in Surat, earlier this month, Prime Minister Modi made it clear that he is aware of the potential backlash that will come from powerful brand name drug companies. In India, there has existed a nexus between pharma companies and doctors for many years, and this has resulted in doctors pushing expensive branded medicines. Under the Prime Minister’s proposed legislation, however, this would change, and big pharma could stand to lose a substantial slice of their revenue.
Despite the potential wrath of these powerful companies, however, Modi has assured the Indian people that the government will accept full responsibility for ensuring that all Indians are able to get the health services that they require at minimal price. However, the Prime Minster has yet to release any draft legislation that would explain how this new measure would work and when it would take effect.
This talk of new generic drug legislation follows Prime Minster Modi’s earlier efforts to provide better healthcare for the Indian population. His government has already introduced a new health policy, after 15 years of stagnation, and has capped the prices of around 700 medicines as well as many drug devices. Modi has also released a draft clause, that would be added to the existing Drugs and Cosmetics Act, that would force pharma companies to print the generic name of drugs two fonts larger than the branded name on their packaging.