In a country of 1.4 billion like India, brands play a major role to empower consumers to differentiate between quality and sub-standard products. Brands represent the leaders of a particular category of products across any sector. The pharma industry builds brands that represent trust and assures quality of patient care.
However, there is a growing belief that brands are the reason for higher healthcare costs and only benefit the brand owners. If that is true, why have branded medicines been around for decades? Are brands jeopardising patients’ health? What role do brands play in patient care? Patients preferring a branded generic is the same as a customer choosing a branded product. One of my most trusted doctors once told me that generic medicines are not trustworthy while branded generics assure his patient’s safety. The genesis of our conversation was building trust and assuring quality, which was partly resolved when the government launched the Jan Aushadhi Scheme (JAS - 2008) to provide a brand to generic medicines and bring fair competition with branded generic medicines.
Chunk of healthcare expenses
Drug prices in India are among the lowest in the world. But unlike other countries that have robust health insurance, most Indians pay out of their pockets. This accounts for about 28 per cent of their healthcare expenses on medications compared to the global average of 15 per cent.
For patients, the doctor is the custodian of their health. Doctors prescribe a medicine that they trust to treat the patient as they are responsible for the patients’ health. Doctors know that all brands are not the same and substitutions may lead to complications in the patients’ health. The potency of every drug depends on the manufacturing processes, distribution and storage.
The manufacturers of certain branded medicines focus on development and upgradation of their products. Branding encourages innovation and builds value around the best expected outcomes based on clinical research that represents the trust and quality of a medicine.
India has over 10,000 manufacturers and 30,000 manufacturing units. We should strengthen quality standards and implement stringent punitive measures to tackle spurious and not of standard quality (NSQ) medicines.
The choice of medicines should be left to doctors and their patients instead of being determined by any other factor. Let the doctor be custodian of patient health.
(The writer is a consumer policy expert. Views are personal.)