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'Pharma-doctors nexus deprives poor of low-cost medicine'
According to a notification by Medical Council of India (MCI), all registered medical professionals in India should write the generic or chemical names of drugs in their prescriptions and not the brand names. But how many doctors in our neighbourhood follow this practice religiously?
"Medical practitioners, who are supposed to serve patients' interests, are unfortunately aiding to fill the coffers of pharmaceutical companies who swamp their clinics and make doctors prescribe their costly drugs to gullible patients, denying them the cheaper generic alternatives. This leaves "no-medicine" for poor who can't afford to buy branded drugs from chemists, who seldom keep generics owing to low demand and unprofitable margin," said Ankur Agarwal, CEO of MedKart Pharmacy, which offers life-saving generic medicines to needy through physical and online outlets.

The exorbitant prices of branded medicines and non-availability of affordable generic alternatives force poor patients to go without medicines thereby risking their lives. The vicious cycle continues to haunt them every time they fall sick, as in India a good 26 per cent go below poverty line in every hospitalization, said Ankur in press release.

There is, however, a silver lining in the otherwise dark side of the generic medicines market in India. People can still reach out to government health centres and hospitals to buy affordable medicines and treatment. 

But seeing the poor upkeep and quality of health services available across these places, people have no option but to depend on private clinics, hospitals or medical practitioners to get their illness treated. But, the branded medicines prescribed by doctors are out of bound for them who are invariably caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

However, there is an argument that even if doctors prescribe generic names, it is the pharmacists who are going to choose the medicine from a series of generic brands available with the same chemical formula. These drug stores can easily be influenced by manufacturers who want to popularize their version. Will this not put patients at serious health risk of getting substandard medicines?

Though agreeing the possibility of druggists getting influenced by pharma companies, Ankur argued that such possibility can be nullified with the improved awareness among people on generic drugs and doctors pitching in to ensure that the store representatives offer the right medicine with correct combination as majority of neighborhood drug stores are associated with the nearby clinics or hospitals.

The government should make suitable amendments in the existing laws to break the nexus between medical practitioners and drug makers, regulate druggists supplying generics and open up more Jan Aushadhi stores across India to provide low-cost and quality medicines to all, said Ankur, who has been spearheading a relentless campaign to spread the awareness on generic medicines among masses and medical fraternity.

According to a study by industry group, ASSOCHAM, the domestic generic drug market will worth USD 28 billion from the current USD 13 billion by 2020 registering over 16 per cent growth annually due to USFDA approvals to several Indian generic drugs and ending of patent to 21 drugs by 2019, which the domestic drug makers are likely to capitalize.

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