Generic or Branded Drugs?-A A +A
To Your Health
Friday, August 23, 2013
THIS is a thorny issue and before loyalists of polarized groups of patients plus their celebrity endorsers start a fight, allow us to establish some fast facts, basic facts about drugs or medicines. All drugs have a specific kind of nomenclature, i.e. a drug can go by three different names. The "chemical name" is the scientific name that precisely describes its atomic and molecular structure.
Example is the very popular aspirin, whose mother compound is orthohydroxybenzoic acid, which means that it started as a six-sided benzene ring, then an acidic group called carboxyl is added to it, then one of the hydrogens is detached to be replaced by an acetyl group group. Whew! Am sure I hear a collective howl of protest from our dear readers. The violent reaction is understandable because, probably only pharmacists or chemists would find meaningful usefulness in such chemical names.
That's why, drugs have their generic names, also called non-proprietary names or the name of a drug known and recognized by health professionals all over the world. The trade name, also known as the brand name or proprietary name is selected by the drug company or the pharmaceutical firm selling their product. The symbol, encircled R after the tradename indicates that the name is duly registered by and restricted by the drug manufacturer. To avoid confusion, it is best to use a drug's generic name because any one drug can have a number of tradenames. In 1962, the US Federal government mandated the use of official names so that only one official name, i.e. the generic name, would represent each drug. The official names are listed in the United States Pharmacopeia and National Formulary.
In the Philippines, during the tenure of President Corazon C. Aquino. Her then Secretary of Health, Dr. Bengzon saw the enactment of RA 6675 known then as Generics Act Bill, which later became a law, requiring that all prescriptions should carry the generic name of the drug, with allowance or privilege given to the prescriber to indicate his/her preferred brandname provided that this brandname is under the generic name, and should be enclosed by a parenthesis. The moving spirit behind the Generics Act Law is to allow the consumer, the patient or relatives to choose from among a list of branded or generics medicine, together with their prices, under an umbrella heading bearing the generic name of the listed medicines below.
At first, the Filipinos appreciated and loved this democratic laudable effort of the government to bring life-saving medicines to popular , reasonable and affordable prices. On the other hand, as if the floodgates were suddenly opened and guess, who came in for dinner, so to speak? Legions and legions of would -be unscrupulous businessmen, with some health professionals as partners, cashed into a potential goldmine with a huge promise of bonanza. Later on, we hear stories, actually complaints of some drugstores telling customers that the medicine the patient needs is out of stock and therefore, would the patient or the relative rather but another medicine of the same kind, however, as a much higher price? Usually, these alternative offers are done at the nick of time- read: urgent times like late night hours, in real bad stormy weather, so that the patient would reluctantly bite the bait, and thus bought a more expensive medicine. A lot of stories also circulated that many fly-by-night drug makers offer enticing attractive deals, the so-called 10 plus whatever amount of boxes of free medicines, as long as their medicine is offered as first choice every time a patient asked for a generic-named drug.
If there's a smoke, there must be fire. Doctors naturally were upset because now, in their minds and in their hearts, they can never be sure what medicine is actually dispensed or given to their patient. There was a time in the past, that doctors were allowed to put the words, "No substitution please," which is no longer allowed. Their fears and worries were compounded by the realization that some countries do not follow the International Drug Patent Law, which give these countries the liberty to manufacture their own drugs and market them worldwide. These are the realities that many doctors took quite seriously, and made a stand to protect the interest, both health and money of their patients.
Next Week. Is Your Drug Both Effective and Safe?
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 24, 2013.