The Brand Name Drugs – Versus Generic.
Written by: Gowher Bhat
Arshid Ahmad owned a farm in the Kashmir valley and struggled with his wife to get by with expenses. He fathered and raised two children who are grown and on their own. When his wife Gulshan Akther got sick, he brought her to a government hospital. The doctor told him that Gulshan had high blood pressure, and she needs to take medication for the rest of her life. He gave Arshid Ahmad the prescription, and he went to the drug store to have the prescription filled. The price was so high that Arshid Ahmad could not afford to pay. When he went home, he sold some of his valuables to get enough money to buy the drugs for his wife. He loved her very much and could not think of living his life without her. He purchased the medication, but it was only for thirty days. There was no way he could continue to pay the price for the drugs every month. When he went back, he asked the doctor if he could prescribe another medication. The doctor prescribed another drug, but still, when Arshid Ahmad went to buy it, the price was a little lower but expensive. The doctor said it was the only medication that would help his wife, and she had to keep taking it; otherwise, she will die. After six months, Arshid Ahmad could not afford this medication any longer. So his wife took the pills every couple of days to save money and make the pills last longer. A year later, Gulshan had a stroke and passed away because her blood pressure was out of control. Later on, Arshid found out that the medication his wife was taking was available as a generic drug which was 80% cheaper than the brand-name drug his wife received. He is very bitter and blamed the doctor for killing his wife because he did not tell him that he could get the inexpensive brand, which gave the same result.
Arshid is not the only one who suffered a loss from this practice. Doctors are not honest with patients, and pharmaceutical companies are selling their brand-name medications by enticing doctors with expensive gifts. When the marketing representatives visit doctors or telephone’s them, they make a deal, that’s referred to as a kickback. These gifts range from luxurious vehicles, credit cards for shopping, arranging family trips, cash, and even kitchen items. All the doctors have to do is prescribe their drug to the patients instead of the generic. Kashmiris are facing problems and suffering the consequences of these practices because there is no genuine concern for patients’ well-being. The majority of the people in Kashmir belong to lower-middle-class families, and when they fall sick, they can’t afford treatment and the costly medication to get well.
People need education about generic drugs. It’s known to be equivalent to the brand name in dosages, strengths, route of administrations, quality, safety, performance, and intended use. Generic drugs are 80 – 90% less costly than brand-name drugs.
I had an interaction with patients who fell, victim. One person told me that his daughter got sick; the doctor prescribed a name brand drug. He had to go into debt to pay for the medication.
Another lady said the doctor prescribed her a lot of costly medications, and she mentioned to the doctor about generic brands. He told her to shut up about that; they were not as good.
I then took my interview to another hospital, and there were dozens of marketing representatives with big shopping bags, waiting to see the doctors. I interacted with one of them, and asked him many questions like why are you here? He said he wanted to make a sale and showed me the list of medications they sell and what reward the doctor would receive if he prescribed one of them.
Dr. Nisar ul Hassan confirmed what I’m writing. He said, “that brand-name drugs are preventing affordable generic drugs from reaching the low-income families.” He also added, “doctors prescribe expensive brand-name drugs knowing the cheaper version is available. These expensive drugs prescribed to gullible patients and doctors are becoming drug mafias. Clinicians are fed up also and are bred by pharmaceutical companies for pushing patients to purchase branded drugs. The whole thing is an unholy practice and misleading the public by giving false information. The use of generic drugs has increased at a snail’s pace in Kashmir. But Kashmiri doctors continue to dole out expensive therapies for monetary gains.”
On a personal note, I request the doctors who are turning their profession into a business and refusing to cater to the people with low incomes to stop.
They took a Hippocratic oath to cure the sick with righteousness. I’m also asking the government to crack down on these practices and pass a law to restrict doctors from robbing the sick. If something is not done, people are going to continue to die at the doctors’ expense.
I’m writing this article to put the Kashmiri people on alert, that they need to ask the doctor for other options. Fatalities are rising because patients are not able to afford to pay these prices. Again, I ask, who cares for them? Perhaps no one in the health profession, especially the pharmaceutical companies.