Health ministry pushes for generic medicines

Last Updated 01 October 2012, 11:02 IST

In a bid to reduce healthcare costs, the union health ministry plans to bring in a legislation to make it mandatory for doctors to prescribe generic medicines.

Sources from the ministry say a bill is already being drafted to push low-cost medicine, along with an ambitious plan to provide free medicine to all.

"The out-of-pocket expense on healthcare is too high. Generic medicine will ensure that it is affordable," an official from the ministry said.

"A bill is being drafted, it will make sure that a list of generic medicines and combination drugs are available in all districts, and it is prescribed by doctors," the official said.

The official said that the bill would ensure that both generic and branded medicines are available on sale side by side.

"The aim is not to bring an end to branded medicine. They shall exist side by side. Out-of-pocket expenditure for healthcare is 78 percent of total expenditure on healthcare.

Generic medicine would reduce the burden on the common man," he said.

The official, however, cautioned that there would be need for strict monitoring and stringent quality control.

An ambitious programme for providing free generic medicines to the economically weaker sections has already been finallised, and is likely to be implemented by the year end.

As per data available with the ministry, the government currently spends only 0.1 percent of GDP on purchase and supply of medicine through public health centres.

Though India is one of the world's largest exporters of generic drugs, its domestic market for generic drugs is small. India  exports to over 200 countries, including the highly regulated markets of the US, Europe, Japan and Australia.

Common medicines like paracetamol cost Rs.10 a strip when branded, while the generic variety costs around Rs.2.45 per strip.

At present, the government has a list of nearly 350 medicines for which generic varieties will be made available.

(Published 01 October 2012, 11:02 IST)

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