Challenge to popularising these stores is to get doctors to prescribe low-cost generic drugs
Vidarbha region got its first generic medicine shop this month thanks to the efforts of the Nagpur-based consumer forum, Janmanch. The shop, inaugurated in Yadav Nagar area in eastern Nagpur on November 11, is receiving a large number of queries from patients from all over the city and outside, informs Janmanch secretary Rajeev Jagtap.
The idea of such a shop, says Jagtap, arose from a 2009 article by noted health activist from Pune, Anant Phadke of Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT). “We found that Maharashtra state does not have a single government-run generic medicine store,” says Jagtap. “We also found that the price difference between generics and branded drugs is immense. For instance, the monthly cost of medicines for serious conditions like cancer, heart or kidney, which can go up to Rs 1 to 1.5 lakh in branded medicines, can be brought down to as little as Rs 7,000 to Rs 7,500.”
Jagtap says there is an urgent need to raise awareness regarding generic drugs. “Many a time, the price difference can confuse patients. Many patients go for costly branded drugs they can’t afford because they fear that the cheaper generics may be fake. In fact, there is no difference between the two, as both have the same FDA certification.”
The shop has been started by Janmanch with donations from the public, and will be run on a strictly no-profit basis. “We will give discounts on the MRP of the generic drugs, too, so that maximum benefit can reach patients,” says Jagtap.
However, the greatest challenge to such an endeavour, says he, is cooperation from doctors. “At present, we are receiving many queries from patients who have been prescribed branded drugs, and want to find out if corresponding generics are available. What we are doing is providing information regarding generics to patients and telling them to get the prescriptions changed. We can’t change the drug at our end, because we may be blamed for anything that goes wrong.”
The forum, says Jagtap, has been working with doctors, requesting them to prescribe generics, at least to poor patients who are not able to afford branded drugs. “We also have plans to have the services of a medical practitioner in the shop itself for advice regarding generics, and are asking city doctors to volunteer for this job.”
The forum is making efforts to start more such shops across the Vidarbha region. “Our final goal is that generic drugs should be available in all medical shops,” says Jagtap. “Once the trend catches on and people are aware, maybe more shops will start keeping generics.”