Medical Council of India (MCI) recently issued a directive urging the doctors to prescribe medicines only in generic terms. But the Indian Medical Association (IMA) says that without proper mechanism to monitor the quality of generic medicines in the country, it will not support the order.

Maintaining that the IMA favours supporting only rational and quality prescription methods, Dr Srinivasa Raju, Chairman of IMA-IT committee, that without proper mechanism to monitor the quality of generic medicines, the association would not support the directive issued by the MCI recently.

Arguing that the doctors should have the liberty to choose the medicines, Dr Raju said, ‘IMA is advocating for quality and affordable drugs. If the government is able to supply quality generic drugs, IMA has no objection. We always support rational and quality prescription. Unless good monitoring system is implemented, we can’t support unilateral generic drug usage.’

According to Dr Raju, who is also the secretary of Hospital Board of India, IMA AP state, a doctor is the first and foremost person directly answerable to the patient and unless good quality drugs are available freely, it is difficult for them to promote stipulated generic drugs. Dr Raju said that the availability of quality generic medicines is a huge concern.

To promote cheap drugs in 2008, the government had set up a scheme called Jan Ausadhi whose purpose was to set up generic drugstores around the country. Their initial plan was to set up 3000 stores but four years later only 300 of them exist. Dr Raju suggests that steps should be taken to open chain of Jan Aushadhi stores throughout the country, and private hospitals must be encouraged to start quality generic shops without licence conditions. The members of IMA have been advised to focus on the quality and efficacy of the drugs prescribed, and to recommend only the highest quality drugs with best possible pharmacological properties.

Noting that there is lack of quality control mechanism over the formulations at retail and at distributor level, he said that 90 per cent of retail outlets in the country are run by non-pharmacy people although the Drugs & Cosmetics Act and the Pharmacy Act mandate that dispensation of drugs in a pharmacy should be carried out by a qualified pharmacist.

Many medical practitioners also slam the recent directive by MCI. Arguing that such a move would only further the interests of chemists, the doctors say that the drug regulatory mechanism in the country cannot be trusted to ensure quality of non-branded medicines. According to them brands are in a way, an assurance of quality.

‘Two factors are involved in prescribing drugs: quality and cost. Pharmacology says generic drugs are of the same quality as the branded ones. I would have no problem in prescribing them as I want the best for my patients. But it is not possible for the national drug regulator, Drug Controller General of India, with its present infrastructure to ensure 100 per cent quality,’ said Dr Anoop Misra, chairman of Fortis Centre for Excellence for Diabetes to a leading daily.

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