EVEN AS major hospitals and doctors in Mumbai have resisted the Centre’s push for prescribing generic medicines, a charitable hospital in Ghatkopar has become the first private facility in the city to switch to generic prescription with its 230 consultants coming on board to bring about the transformation that is set to cut treatment costs by a huge margin.
Since August 15, when H J Doshi Ghatkopar Hindusabha Hospital switched to generic medicine prescriptions, its pharmacy has recorded sales worth Rs 34 lakh. Hospital records show the same medicines but of branded quality would have cost patients Rs 1.58 crore.
In 2017, the Medical Council of India had issued a notification asking doctors to prescribe generic formulation of medicines. Despite low costs, doctors cite quality standard issues with generic medicines for not prescribing them.
In certain cases, the difference between the two can be as high as 89 per cent. Antibiotic Meropenum costs Rs 1,815 under a branded label and Rs 200 under generic form. Teicobiotic, an antibiotic commonly used during intensive treatment for infection, costs Rs 2,227 if purchased under a brand name, the same antibiotic costs Rs 940 under generic molecules. An infusion set for saline drip also sees a huge margin between branded (Rs 125) and generic formulation (Rs 50).
“We noticed that patients often asked for discount citing huge hospital bills and inability to pay so much. A break up shows hospital charges are usually about 20 per cent, while medicines and consumables form 80 per cent of the bill,” said Dr Vaibhav Deogirkar, Medical Director at Hindusabha hospital.
Deepak Pathade, who manages the generic medical store at hospital, said that with doctors prescribing generic formulations, patients now have a choice. “It is often believed that because generic medicines are cheaper, they are of poor quality. But that is not true,” he added.
Dr Avinash Supe, Dean at KEM hospital and head of medical education in Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, said that if generic formulations are as per World Health Organisation’s norms, it is as effective as branded medicines.
The 184-bed Hindusabha hospital started counseling its consulting doctors to start generic prescription and only provide branded medicine names, if the former is unavailable. President Maganbhai Doshi said the doctors agreed after sensitisation rounds.
Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Miten Shah, who has switched to generic prescriptions, said he mostly needs to prescribe calcium to his patients. “For osteoporosis, patients require 10 or more calcium tablets. Branded ones cost Rs 200 for 10, while generic ones cost Re 1 for each. Several people may not be able to afford branded drugs,” he said.
The branded medicines record high prices owing to research and development and marketing cost behind them. Doctors, however, also push for it to avoid risk of side effects that generic formulations may lead to in rare cases.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) said doctors in Mumbai are currently not prescribing generic formulations as the government has not made it mandatory.
“The government should also provide generic formulations abundantly across chemist shops for doctors to prescribe them. Patients have also complained of ineffectiveness of generic formulations in certain cases,” said Dr Jayesh Lele, the president of IMA, Maharashtra.