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Generic Drug Prices: Patients Fleeced As Manufacturers, Retailers Make Most Profits

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that government is contemplating a legislation that will make it mandatory for the doctors to prescribe generic drugs but a study in Indian Journal of Pharmacology has established that retail margin on generic variants was way higher - sometimes more than 1,000% of the manufacturer's price, though, generic versions were less expensive than the branded ones.

Government should come-up with a regulation
A study - Authored by pharmacologists from Delhi University's VP Chest Institute and MD University - compares retailers' profit margin on five common drugs - cetirizine, fluoxetine, ciprofloxacin, lansoprazole and alprazolam. The study result shows that even if doctors prescribe branded drugs, retailers have a strong financial incentive to push generic drugs.  According to Dr Anita Kotwani, was the lead author of the IJP study and a professor of pharmacology at Delhi University's V P Chest Institute, told "Fleecing of patients in this manner continues and it will not stop until government comes up with regulation to ensure manufacturers drop trade names and sell drugs by their pharmacological name as in the US and other developed countries."

Branded-generics versions profit were in the range of 201% - 1,016%
According to her, retailer margin for five branded medicines included in the study was in the range of 25%-30%, but for their branded-generics version manufactured by the same company it was in the range of 201% - 1,016%. "In India, there are very few innovator or patented products. Generic drugs are available in two forms: the branded product which companies advertise and push through doctors and branded-generic which they expect retailers to push in the market," she said.

Strict control on quality and pricing of generic drugs needed
In the study, though quality of both branded and branded-generic drug was found to be equally good but doctors say all generic drugs sold under different name do not have similar quality. According to the professor and head of neurology at AIIMS Dr Kameshwar Prasad "We have observed that epilepsy goes out of control in epilepsy patients when they changed the brand which is indicative of variation in quality of drugs manufactured by different companies, adding that there should be strict control on quality and pricing of generic drugs. "Doctors are often blamed for coming under the influence of big firms, who lure them with different benefits, and batting for brands. This is partially true. The fact that quality of generic drugs sold under various trade names for same molecule is not uniform hence lack of trust on the less popular ones," said another doctor.