Generic medicines use could save on costs, says industry association.

Patients should be more proactive in demanding generic medicines from pharmacists, says the National Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (NAPM), which estimates that every 1% rise in the volume of generics dispensed in SA would save R176m.

Generics accounted for 53.6%-65% of the volume of medicines sold in SA, according to data obtained from pharmacy-benefit management company Mediscor and IMS Health respectively, said NAPM chairman Vivian Frittelli.

The NAPM is an industry association for generic drug manufacturers, which sell cheap copies of originator drugs when their patents expire.

Competition from generic rivals when drug patents expire means generic prices are usually much lower than originator medicines. IMS Health is an international company that tracks private-sector pharmaceutical sales.

Pharmacists were legally obliged to offer patients a generic alternative if one exists, but they sometimes fail to do so, said Frittelli.

Pharmacists were not obliged to stock generic medicines or to keep the cheapest ones on hand when several are available, he said, urging consumers to ask prescribing doctors and pharmacists whether generic alternatives were available.

Frittelli noted generic use was much higher in the US, where generics constituted 83% of the volume sold, because the price gap between generics and originator drugs is wider than in SA. Mediscor’s most recent medicines review found the difference in price between an originator drug and the average-priced generic alternative in SA was 45.2%.

Discovery Health, SA’s biggest medical scheme administrator, has said the potentially positive effect of generics had been diluted in SA because of the relatively narrow gap between the prices of generics and patent-protected drugs. In the US, generic medicines could be as much as 80% cheaper than originators, it said.

At the time, it estimated that Discovery Health Medical Scheme, which it administers, could save about R520m a year if all doctors and pharmacists prescribed and dispensed the lowest-priced generics.

Source: Business Day