‘The generic names should be visibly more obvious than the brand names in all medicines and drugs’ is the clause mentioned in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940 and then the regulations updated by that Act in 1945. But, it is not so in reality. Most of the medicines still carry the names of the brand more obvious. And the generic names are mentioned in some corner of the wrapper with a smaller print. But henceforth that cannot be mentioned so. The Indian Health and Family Welfare Ministry has recently announced that ‘the generic names should be printed with bigger fonts than their brand names’. It is the intention of the government to create awareness among the public about the generic drugs. Similarly there are a few amendments made with regard to the requirements of mentioning what class of drug that is in the pack. It is going to be implemented from November 1st, this year.
Let’s first see what generic drugs are.
When a drug is termed based on its chemical composition it is called generic drug. And the name of the company by which the drug is manufactured is called branded. For example, ‘paracetamol’ is a generic name. it is manufactured by various companies by which the brand name keeps changing.
Most of the people know a drug based on its brand name. They keep buying drugs from the drug stores based on the brand name prescribed by their doctors. The same drug might be sold by the drug stores at a lower price as well. But the people will buy only that is written by the doctors by their brand name. This leads to loss of money for the general public. They tend to be unnecessarily afraid of not taking other generic drugs just because they lack the awareness that there are other companies that too manufacture the same drug. If they are aware of the fact about the generic drugs there will not be any loss of money.
“This Act is already in existence. But now the size of the font is mentioned in regard to how bigger the generic name should be than the brand name. But there is no benefit for the public out of that. It is only a challenge for the manufacturers like us. The roller needs to be changed. We are asked to print in double color. And eventually the printing cost will also be high. Besides, only Schedule H and Schedule 1 are the prescription drugs and Schedule G is non-prescription drugs. But we are asked to mention that too as ‘prescription’. But people do not usually look into those details while buying a drug. They take what the doctors prescribe them to. It is implemented merely just to show that they are doing something for the public. If it is really going to benefit the public we will be happy to accept it. Buy there is no use out of these recommendations. And it’s an unwanted expenditure for us too”. Sethuraman, Chairman – Tamil Nadu Drug Manufacturers’ Association expressed so.
“In most of the drugs, only the brand name is quite conspicuous. Their generic names are found with smaller fonts. Public know only the brand names. Therefore it is really a welcome announcement. Similarly, sleeping pills, narcotics and anti-cancer drugs should not be sold directly by the drug stores. It should be sold only on the prescription by qualified doctors. But many buy those types of drugs using older prescriptions or over the counter. This practice should be prevented. Therefore it is better to classify all drugs under prescription and label the details on the pack”, as stated by Dr. Sivarama Kannan.
“Previously, medicines used to carry only ‘Schedule H’, ‘Schedule 1’ details. But currently, we are asked to mention ‘Rx’. Many other drugs are classified under narcotics, at present. It is recommended to mention narcotics with a symbol ‘Nrx’ while manufacturing the drugs. Next, we are asked to print the generic names with bigger fonts than the brand names. This will create awareness among the public to an extent. But we sell only the drugs that are prescribed by the doctors. People too will buy drugs that are prescribed by the doctors”, says Anandan, Managing Secretary, Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association.
“There are some changes on the labels. It is now mentioned that all drugs including Schedule H and Schedule 1 are classified as prescription drugs. This will prevent people from getting access to get drugs directly from the drug stores. It is also announced that the generic name should be bigger in font size than the brand names. This will create awareness among the public about the generic names. This will lead to a condition where people will be asking for other generic drugs other than what their doctors prescribed for them. But due to these changes there will be some difficulties for the manufacturers of drugs. But public welfare is more important than those difficulties”, says Sivabalan, Director, Tamilnadu Drug Control Office.
(This article written in Tamil by R Senthil kumar has been transcreated in English by V Amalan Stanley)