April 22, 2009

Go, go generics!

“Our fastest-growing division is our generics drugs,” said Pascual Labs chairman Abraham Pascual at Wednesday’s launch of Pharex Economix, a campaign by Pascual subsidiary Pharex HealthCorp. to “provide Filipinos access to a wide range of premium-quality but affordable medicines.” Its “compounded” growth rate in the last 10 years is “16 to 18 percent.” (Read the rest in BusinessMirror. Correction: In BM illustration is Pharex president Tomas Marcelo Agana, not Abraham Pascual as had been captioned.)

(Generic drugs from Pharex HealthCorp.)

Everytime I buy my vitamins, minerals or the usual OTC home drugs like paracetamol or ibuprofen, I usually ask for the generic equivalent. A generic drug is basically a drug whose patent has already expired and thus can be manufactured by any pharmaceutical other than its original patent owner. This makes the drug cheaper and more affordable to more people.

So in the case of paracetamol, for instance, instead of buying the ones made by multinational firms, like Tempra or I ask for the cheapest generic equivalent, most likely under the Ritemed brand w/c is locally manufactured. This will cost probably P2 per tablet only compared to as much as P10 per tablet for the one made by a multinational drug firm.

Same is true with ascorbic acid or vitamin C. I buy Ritemed or Rhea instead of the heavily advertised brands like Fern C or Cecon which have the exact formulations anyway. The difference being those locally produced by Filipino firms cost less. Even certain antibiotics have generic equivalents and are priced at least 50-60% lower than the ones normally prescribed by your doctors who btw, get lots of freebies and junkets from multinational pharma firms.

Unfortunately there are many drugs that treat high-maintenance conditions that still are not yet out of patent. My mom's anti-hypertension meds Bi-preterax, for instance, is still only made by one pharma firm, Zuellig. As such, a month's worth of this drug cost close to P3,000! Indeed, pharma drugs in the country are still quite expensive and if you belong to the poorest members of society, you will probably die from its high prices rather than your illness.

Everyone has a right to affordable medicines!

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