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Branded Vs unbranded generics

October 4, 2014 at 5:11pm


Public

A generic version of a drug is usually manufactured by several competitors after the original patent
has expired, and sells for a fraction of the original price thus benefiting the consumer immensely.
However, in india and some other developing countries a peculiar trend of "branded" generics is
taking place. These so called "branded" generics are, in most cases, manufactured by the previous
holder of the expired patent and sold after a rigorous marketing. Whereas the "unbranded" generics
are sold under their chemical name.
The common misconception that the unbranded generic drugs are of poor quality or less potency is
misplaced and is a result of the aggressive marketing. It is done by the pharma companies to
continue extracting large revenues from the generally poor populations of these countries in which
they are sold. The generic drugs, whether branded or unbranded go through the same regulation,
and are required to meet the same specifications of standards and quality. The claims of higher
potency is also not certified by the drug authorities, in any country including india. Ironically the
same products which are exported to developed countries under its generic name is sold in indian
markets as a premium branded product. This exposes the double standards of the industry and the
MNCs in this field. What makes it worse is the poor penteration of health insurance in india and the
mostly out-pocket expenditures incurred towards health.
Comparing our pharmaceutical markets with countries around the world also appears to justify this
view. US of A, which is the largest pharma market in the world, approximately one-third of the global
pharma market, has in its mix a 84 % volume of the generics with 28% of the sales value. The
situation is not very different in the EU and the OECD. Compared to this, a developing economy like
india, having one-third of its population below the poverty line has in its mix of pharma products only
8% of generics in the domestic market, whereas an overwhelming 90% of it is being captured by the
"branded" generics drugs. The unbranded generics's sale , which usually are sold at about 3 or 4
times less price and exceeding to 10 times in certain instances, are laregely confined to to the Jan
Ausadhi Yojana of the government. Thus the main sources driving demand here is the government
agencies.
"Branded" generics are like an oxymoron. They neither give the price advantage accompanying the
generics nor do they provide any theraputic advantage associated with the brand name product.
The repeated claims of higher efficacy are only self-proclaimed. Whereas the "branded" generics
sale is doctor-led or prescription-driven, trade generics or unbranded generics' sale are retail-led or
chemist-driven. It is no secret that the medical practitioners make a buck by prescribing specified
company's drugs, the buck would be this big is in itself a revelation. The government's step directing
the medical practitioners in govt hospitals to prescribe only unbranded generic drugs is in itself
commendable.

Different committies and task forces appointed by the government, from the Hathi committee in
1975 to the Pranob sen Task Force & the recent V.M. Katoch task frocehave all recommended
that the single-ingredient drugs must only be sold under a generic name. This may require the drug
controllers to grant marketing approvals to generic names and not brand names. Which in turn might
require an amendment of the Trademark act.

The measures needed to straighten this skewed business practices may consist of :

1. a supportive legislation and regulations to make prescription in generic names mandatory.,


deviations to be permitted only when associated with full justification.
2. mandatory debranding of generic drugs in a phased manner.
3. Quality assurance capacity and the procedures to demonstrate bioequivalence should be
enhanced
4. widespread info dissemination on drug prices.
5. incentives to drug industry should be used to promote genric drugs.
Only then our vision of affordable healthcare to all would be\come a reality.