Thursday, June 22, 2006

Generic Drugs

If you thought Medicare Plan D was lopsidedly in favor of drug companies then you need to see the Philippine situation. Atenolol is a beta-blocker that has probably been available in a generic formulation for more than 20 years. Atenolol is available as Tenormin and sells for 80 cents a tablet. In the US, atenolol sells for 12 cents a tablet. Oral nystatin is a very common anti-fungal commonly used for infants with oral thrush sells for $7 for a 120 ml bottle. In the US, 120 ml of nystatin would probably cost 70 cents.

Widely available here in generic form are the common antibiotics and a few diabetes medications. A lot of anti-hypertensive medications come only in branded preparations. Drug stores have very little stocks the few times generic equivalents are available. This is a disaster, especially in a country where a majority of the people get by on less than ten dollars a day. People continue to die in their forties from complications of high blood pressure and diabetes because of an inability to purchase medications.

I understand why the biggest drug store chain in the Philippines prefers branded pharmaceuticals (higher profit margin) but why the government cannot import generic formulations from India and Israel does not make any sense to me at all. Just another example of a glaring lack of political will to enforce social consciousness and ruffle the feathers of a billion-dollar drug store conglomerate as well as the behemoth drug companies that profit every single time a Filipino is forced to take a branded product manufactured abroad.

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