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Times of India
01 February 2011
By Manu Aiyappa
Bangalore, India

Crackdown On Stranglehold Of Pharma Firms
Prescribe Only Generic Drugs, Govt Docs Told
Next time you walk into a government hospital or a public health centre, take a second look at the prescription. Make sure the doctor does not give a prescription to buy medicines from a private pharmacy.

For, the government has prohibited government doctors from prescribing branded drugs from private pharmacies. They have also been directed to prescribe only quality low–cost generic drugs, which are available in pharmacies and government–run health centres and hospitals.

Earlier this month, the state government had issued a directive prohibiting doctors from prescribing branded drugs from private pharmacies and also instructed officers of the drugs control department to monitor prescriptions issued by doctors. "We will initiate strict against those who violate this rule," said health minister B Sriramulu.

Hospitals can no longer give lame excuses like exhausted or shortage of drugs as the government has ensured sufficient stock. "We have ensured adequate stock in all our drug stores in district hospitals for the next six months except for some rare life–saving drugs," the minister said.

The government is adopting a multi–pronged approach to free the public health system from the stranglehold of pharma companies.

Earlier, doctors were prescribing drugs of reputed pharma companies, saying generic drugs do not have the right potency. Prices of generic drugs, which have the same therapeutic qualities, are significantly lower than their branded versions. For example, popular brands of paracetamol, used to treat headache and cold, cost Rs 10 for a strip of 10 tablets (500 mg). Its nonbranded generic equivalent costs as less as Rs 2.45 for the same batch of tablets.

Explaining the modus operandi, M Janardhan Swamy, a social activist, trying to break the unholy nexus between the doctors and pharmacies said: "Unlike other consumer products, patients coming to government hospitals cannot choose from brands or don’t know their generic equivalent.

They buy the particular brand the doctor prescribes. Drug companies spend huge amounts to promote their brands and convince doctors to prescribe their product over others. In return, doctors are given lucrative gifts and incentives, an unethical practice the government never tried to address so far"

What is a Generic Drug?
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