For Quality, Essential, Generic Medicines
Chapter 2 Essential Drugs    

Generic vs Brand Name

Drugs need to be sold only by generics and not brand or so-called patented names. (For instance, paracetamol is a generic name while Crocin is the brand name for the same drug. Like Crocin, manufacturers market paracetamol under different brand names.)

Only 60 to 80 drugs are prescribed most of the time, from over 100,000 formulations in the country. It is a common practice among doctors to use brand names when prescribing. Prescribers are often influenced by the marketing practices of pharmaceutical companies. Drug companies claim brand names are of better quality than generics. This is a myth. Quality depends on the consciousness and ethics of the manufacturer, distributors, retailers and the regulatory authorities (see the discussion on Lentin Commission in Chapter 4).

Use of brand name is an important issue for the profit-oriented drug companies. The Kefauver Committee (87th US Congress Hearing on Monopoly and Anti-trust (Drugs) 1961) reported that innumerable branded products were being sold at prices ten times higher than their generic equivalents (11). In India, brand names are subject to excise duty of about 15 percent, with a few exceptions; the excise duty is passed on to the consumer.

The drug industry allocated only one per cent of research and development spending to poor world diseases in 1980 - that is, half as much it costs to develop just one new drug. Most research and development spending goes into producing "me too" drugs - these are slight variations on existing drugs which can then be patented as "new" drugs and sold at high prices (12). Often these variations are no better than molecular manipulation or a mere addition of other unnecessary ingredients.

In contrast, consider the following advantages of having a generics-only policy:

* Only generic names are used in medical and pharmacological textbooks and in pharmacy education.
* Only generic names are used in scientific medical journals and WHO publications.

Use of generic names will ensure production, sale and dispensing of more rational single ingredient drugs.

The same with different names
* It will ensure clarity by giving information about the class of drug and thus avoid confusion arising out of many dissimilar brand names of one drug.
* Quality drugs are cheaper when purchased under their generic names rather than their brand names.