image courtesy:Fortune

The Prime Minister’s sudden announcement from Surat about a possible law to ensure that doctors prescribe generic drugs rather than expensive branded medicines is not an isolated move. It is part of a larger plan that the Prime Minister’s Office is piloting in close collaboration with Niti Aayog and the health ministry to bring in a new public health framework, for which work has been on ever since Modi took charge at the Centre.

India could set a global precedent by legally requiring doctors to prescribe generic medicines.

The National Institution for Transforming India, also called NITI Aayog, was formed via a resolution of the Union Cabinet on January 1, 2015. NITI Aayog is the premier policy ‘Think Tank’ of the Government of India, providing both directional and policy inputs. While designing strategic and long term policies and programmes for the Government of India, NITI Aayog also provides relevant technical advice to the Centre and States.

A generic drug is a medication that is equivalent to a brand-name product in dosage, strength, route of administration, quality, safety, performance, and intended use.

Generic drugs are usually much less expensive than brand name drugs once they reach the market. However, in most cases, generic drugs become available in market only after the patent protections afforded to a drug’s original developer expire.

There are many other areas in which the Modi government is quietly at work. One to ensure that “medicines and medical equipment should be sold at a lower cost” has already been effected,the reduction of stent prices ,and Modi has mentioned it in his public speeches. The larger issue is regulating the cost of medicines.

“It is the government’s responsibility that everybody should get health services at minimal price,” Modi said at the inauguration of a charitable hospice. “ … “In our country doctors are less, hospitals are less and medicines are expensive. If one person falls ill in a middle class family, then the financial health of the family gets wrecked.”

“We have recently declared a health policy. The health policy has been brought in after 15 years,” he said.

“The prices of 700 medicines were capped so that poor people get medicines at reasonable rates when they face grave diseases,” Modi said.”We have also capped the prices of stents used in heart ailments,” he said.

Despite the wrath of a very powerful lobby, the government is taking one step after another so that poor people and middle class get quality health services,” the Prime Minister said.

He said the government has implemented the ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Pariyojna’, where people get generic medicines from stores at reasonable rates.

A former state drug controller says the government has to first improve the administration of drugs by bringing the drugs division under the ministry of health rather than under the ministry of chemicals and petrochemicals as at present.

“This will be the first step which will bring clarity that these drugs are used for health purposes and must be monitored by this ministry. There are also loopholes in governance of the drug controller, as state governments are not following what the central government proposes, and that gap has to be bridged,” he added.

The next step towards reducing drug prices would be indigenisation. Last year, the PMO asked Niti Aayog to help develop an indigenous hub for the manufacture of bulks drugs including common painkillers which are mostly imported from China. Niti Aayog is not stopping at this. A big game changer could be the overhaul of the regulatory regime for medical education and it is preparing its own version for this mega restructuring.

A former state drug controller says the government has to first improve the administration of drugs by bringing the drugs division under the ministry of health rather than under the ministry of chemicals and petrochemicals as at present.

The government must promote the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) so that consumers are aware that these are available at a cheaper price.

Consumer awareness should be created as to doctors must write in the prescription which drugs are on the NLEM list and which are not.The NLEM drugs must be available under one window in the pharmacy and those chemists who do not keep these drugs must be punished.

IMA doctors state that writing just the generic name of the drug is not helpful; the prescription must also mention the name of the company, whether it is NLEM or non-NLEM.

On Monday, Modi inaugurated the Rs 400 crore Kiran Multi Super Speciality Hospital and Research Centre, built by Samast Patidar Arogya Trust in Katargam area in Surat.

He had also laid the foundation stone of the hospital when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat.


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