Doctors to prescribe generic drugs in govt. hospitals

July 20, 2012 10:37 am | Updated 10:37 am IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

Health Minister V. S. Sivakumar announced in the Assembly on Thursday that the government doctors would be instructed to prescribe medicines by their generic name.

The Minister was replying to a discussion on the Sixth Report of the Committee on Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions dealing with drug prices and related issues. This is the first time that the House took up a discussion on a report of the Committee. (The House has previously discussed two reports of the Assurance Committee.)

Mr. Sivakumar said that generic drugs would be made available to all patients (excluding government employees and income tax payees) free of charge from government hospitals from November 1.

Responding to demands from ruling Front members, he said that the government would examine the feasibility supplying medicines to private medical shops at low prices through the State Medical Services Corporation. A committee headed by the Principal Secretary (Health) would study the matter. The Corporation would have infrastructure, financial and other constraints in taking up such a venture.

He said that the Karunya pharmacies would be started in all taluks in phases. Initially, 35 pharmacies were being opened. Plans would be presented before ‘Emerging Kerala Programme’ on starting of new drug manufacturing units in the State.

Intervening in the debate, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that the government proposed to extend the comprehensive health insurance scheme to cover many of those above the poverty line besides supplying free medicines. The working of the State Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Limited would be streamlined. Bullying by drug dealers’ association against Karunya pharmacies would not deter government from implementing the scheme. The demand for expanding the scheme would be considered.

The debate saw several members demanding that it should be made mandatory for all doctors to prescribe medicines by their generic name. This would allow patients to choose from the same medicines with vastly differing price tags. It was legally possible to mandate prescription of generic drugs. The efficiency of State Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Limited should be improved.

T. N. Pratapan, who initiated the debate, called for steps to control drug prices. Drug companies were fleecing the patients by charging vastly differing prices for the same medicine. It was high time that the government intervened to check the trend.

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority and drug companies should be brought under the Union Ministry of Health. Currently, it’s under Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers.

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