A letter sent to the provincial health departments by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap), advising them to take necessary measures to stop government and private doctors from prescribing branded medicines and instead write salts/chemicals, is but reflective of the deep-rooted policy ad hocism and confusion prevalent at the regulator.
The letter sent by Drap pharmacy services director Dr Abdur Rashid, mentions that the regulator has received public complaints that the doctors prescribe branded medicines under the influence of pharmaceutical companies, which puts an unnecessary financial burden on the patients.
“This practice adds to the economic burden of the country and also puts a financial load on patients owing to purchase of pricier brands… and is also against the code of ethics for the medical and dental practitioners. You are, therefore, requested to take necessary measures for promoting generic prescriptions by the doctors to discourage the practice of incentivised prescription in the best interest of the patients and the country,” the letter leaked to the media last week stated.
The apparent objective of the Drap ‘advice’ to the provinces is to break the nexus between the pharmaceutical manufacturers and the doctors, as well as to free the patients from the burden of buying expensive branded drugs, especially when their much cheaper alternates are also available in the market. The letter also implies that doctors prescribe more expensive branded medicines for monetary and other benefits from the manufacturers of those drugs.
‘Drap is not ready to trust a doctor but is ready to put its trust in chemists’
The section of the Drug Act of 1976 dealing with the registration of drugs, a report quoted by the Drug Lawyers’ Forum president Noor Mahar, provides that ‘a single-ingredient drug containing one active ingredient shall be registered generally by their generic names while a compound drug containing more than one active ingredient shall be registered generally by their proprietary names’. “However, the doctors in connivance with the pharmaceutical companies write even single-ingredient drugs with their brand names in violation of the regulatory law,” he argues.