Generic Medicines in Malaysia

Governments, the world over, are encouraging the prescriptions of generics in order to contain healthcare cost. In general, generics are normally priced lower than the innovator or proprietary brands. They could range from 80% to the lower percentile of 30% or less.

In order to move forward to ensure that the quality of the generics are not being compromised against the innovators', bioequivalent (BE) studies are now a prerequisite by the respective Health Authorities. Pharmacoeconomics must also be part of the evaluation as the "lowest priced drugs may not be the most cost effective". It must also be highlighted that there are other costs of healthcare that must be considered when dispensing generics as nursing and hospitalisation costs and loss of productivity of the patient if the recovery takes longer than necessary.

In Malaysia, a recent Study conducted by Assoc Prof Dr Mohamed Azmi Ahmad Hassali, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, which I quote: "had shown that by opting for generic medicines rather than branded ones, consumers can save up to 90 per cent of the cost for medication. Currently, many blockbuster drugs used to treat chronic diseases are available as generics because their patents have ended".

Many doctors, including the public, in general, have the perception that generic medicines are only meant for poor countries and are of poor quality. From surveys done across the globe, even in developed countries, more than 80 per cent of generics are being prescribed such as in the United States, Britain, Germany and France.

According to  Dr Azmi, " ... the challenge is to change the mindset of medical practitioners, especially in the private sector towards the use of generic medicines. A study conducted among private practitioners in Perak found that the majority of the doctors surveyed, 58 per cent of the 105 physicians, doubted the efficacy and quality of generic medicines".

"In Malaysia, the use of generic medicines is mandated in the National Medicine Policy and the Health Ministry is taking proactive steps in encouraging its wider use. The Health Ministry, through its Pharmaceutical Services Division, had taken a bold step by launching the Generic Medicines Awareness Programme (GMAP) road-shows nationwide to engage doctors in the public and private sectors".

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