The central government’s National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) is going to put all of its focus on quality generic medicines, and not just the branded generic medicines, said Union Chemical and Fertiliser Minister Ananth Kumar while addressing a closed door session with chief executives (CEOs) of pharmaceutical companies in Bengaluru on Feburary 15.
The Department of Pharmaceuticals comes under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers. In his closing address to the CEOs, Kumar said that “Namocare (NHPS) is all about quality generics, and not just branded generics” and added that “if they (CEOs) focus on quality generic medicines, their business will gallop under Namocare”, according to three persons who were present in the closed door session. The minister’s office confirmed The Indian Express that he made this statement at Bengaluru.
Some executives who were present at the CEO roundtable were Satish Reddy, Chairman, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories; Luca Visini, Managing Director, Eli Lilly and Company (India); Annaswamy Vaidheesh, vice-president (South Asia) and managing director, GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Ltd; Jawed Zia, Country President, Novartis India; Vivek Vasudev Kamath, Managing Director, MSD Pharmaceuticals; Ajit Singh, Chairman, ACG Worldwide.
Indian pharmaceutical industry earns majority of its revenues by selling branded generic drugs in the country. Generic drugs are cheaper than branded generic drugs. Whenever a drug’s patent expires, the company that wants to produce generic version has to get the license for it from the drug regulator. Generic drug is sold by its salt name, while the branded generic drug is sold by the company under a particular brand label. For example, as Paracetamol is the salt name, the generic drug is sold with a label “Paracetamol” only, while the branded generic versions are sold in India by companies under their respective brand labels such as Calpol, Dolo and Sumo.
While inaugrating a charity hospital in Surat on April 17, 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi indicated that central government may bring in a legal framework under which doctors will have to prescribe generic medicines, which are cheaper than equivalent branded generic drugs, to patients. Modi said: “Doctors write prescriptions in such a way that poor people do not understand the handwriting, and he has to buy that medicine from private stores at high prices…We will bring in a legal framework by which if a doctor writes a prescription, he has to write in it that it will be enough for patients to buy generic medicine and he need not buy any other medicine.”
One of three aforementioned persons, who attended the closed door session at Bengaluru, told The Indian Express: “The chemicals minister stated that consumption of medicines is lopsided in India. He stated that the persons who belong to groups such as below poverty line (BPL), poverty line (PL), Economically Weaker Section (EWS), and other low income groups, consume just 20 per cent of medicines, even though they consist of the 60 per cent of the population in India. On the other hand, 80 per cent of the medicines is consumed by the top 40 per cent population in India, as per the minister.”
The person added: “The minister asked the industry to prepare a grand plan for one year, two year, three years and so on for the Namocare. He said that Namocare will change the healthcare sector and quality generics will be the focus of it. He added that he is not satisfied with the progress of Indian pharma industry per se and admitted that more needs to be done and more will be done.”
In the Union Budget 2018-19, an initial corpus of Rs 2,000 crore was provided for the NHPS that aims to provide medical cover of Rs 5 lakh to over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families. Projections made by the NITI Aayog pegged the cost of the NHPS at around Rs 12,000 crore in total. The Centre expects to launch the scheme by October this year and the overall expenditure will be borne jointly by the Centre and the states in a 60:40 ratio.