Doctors could save SA economy around R4-billion per annum

Pharmacists are obligated by law to offer patients a generic alternative, if the prescribed medication is substitutable.

DESPITE the fact that the use of generic medicine has increased over time, many healthcare practitioners in South Africa continue to prescribe expensive brand-name medication when cheaper generic alternatives are available. This is costing the SA economy around R4-billion a year.

Based on the latest Mediscor data, about one in five prescriptions for medical aid patients in the past year were for branded medication where generic equivalents were available.

Erik Roos, CEO of Pharma Dynamics – one of the leading generic medicine providers in the country – estimated that for patients with hypertension (high blood pressure) alone, substituting brand-name prescription medication for generics, would save millions.

“Generic hypertension medication is on average 44 per cent cheaper than brand name medication, while a further 79 per cent can be shaven off the price of brand name antidepressants if a generic alternative is used. Failing to substitute with a generic, means that many patients are paying over R350 for a product that could be costing them in the region of R75,” said Roos.

Roos added that pharmacists are obligated by law to offer patients a generic alternative, if the prescribed medication is substitutable.

The majority of peer-reviewed studies found that generic equivalents produced similar clinical outcomes when compared to their brand-name counterparts, but despite this some patients still express concern that generic medications are less effective.

“A meta-analysis of 47 studies which compared the effectiveness of generic and brand-name medicines in nine classes of cardiovascular medications found no evidence of superiority of brand-name medication. The reason generic manufacturers can sell medication at a lower cost is not because it is of inferior quality, but because of the increased competition among generic manufacturers, who don’t have to go through the expensive research and development phase that brand companies have already gone through.

“Increasing the use of quality-assured generic medicine plays a key role in sustaining SA’s healthcare system and ultimately leads to improved access to essential treatments – a vision that the National Department of Health advocates. Doctors play a critical role in realising this ideal. By adopting a more generic-prescription-based model, healthcare practitioners could see medicine expenditure drop significantly, whilst providing patients with effective and affordable medication,” added Roos. It is estimated that every one per cent increase in generic usage equates to a saving of R270 million.

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