Most of the members of the Assembly took care to attend the special discussion on the report of an Assembly committee on drug prices and related issue in the House on Thursday. There was unanimity in the House that the skyrocketing drug prices should be checked. The members cared when it came to health care and medicines.
They pressed the Health Minister V. S. Sivakumar to make it mandatory for doctors to prescribe drugs by their generic names and Mr. Sivakumar announced that it would be made mandatory for doctors in government hospitals. As to other doctors, he would have to seek legal opinion.
Ruling Front members even egged on the Minister to turn the Kerala Medical Services Corporation into a super store for bulk purchase and supply of drugs even to the private medical shops. But, Mr. Sivakumar appeared to reluctant; citing infrastructural, financial and logistical problems. However, he was forced to announce that the Health Secretary would be asked to examine the feasibility.
The two proposals, if implemented, would take the State a long way in checking drug prices. Legally, a medical shop could now supply on the drug prescribed by the doctor. If it is by the brand name, he would have to supply that brand and not any of the alternatives. If prescription by generic name is introduced, it would give the consumer a choice. He can buy the brand and price level he chooses. (As of now, medicines are the only items over which the consumer has no choice.)
This would have an impact on prices as the price difference between various brands can be very high. Some branded drugs prescribed by the doctors could be several times higher than the generic variant. Now Internet sites such as PatientIndia are available that could help the consumer to make the choice by listing prices of the generic and branded drugs. Advice can also be received from the doctor regarding quality, but the final choice would be that of the patient.
If the Corporation enters the wholesale market in a big way, it would surely bring down prices provided that corruption in the organisation is checked. It can also help to check quality. It is imperative that the government would have to ensure quality of generic drugs when doctors start prescribing them.
For further reading:
Doctors to prescribe generic drugs in govt. hospitals