x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Doctors fight generic prescriptions

Some doctors are angry with new government prescription rules that allow pharmacists to choose the drugs that patients receive according to their generic formulas.

ABU DHABI // Some doctors are angry with new government prescription rules that allow pharmacists to choose the drugs that patients receive according to their generic formulas. The doctors argue that generic drugs do not always have the same formulas as brand-name drugs, and that pharmaceutical standards vary from country to country. But there is also a financial factor at play; many doctors routinely receive perks - such as free trips to conferences for continual medical education (CMEs) - from pharmaceutical companies that want to promote their products. "We are well aware that such things happen, but this is a common practice in this part of the world," said Ruch de Silva, a consulting analyst for health care at Datamonitor MENA, a leading provider of online data. "It can be seen as a kickback but it's not blatant corruption. It's just something that is required. If you didn't have physicians attending things like CMEs they would be out of date concerning the latest treatments." The complaining doctors say such perks will simply shift to the pharmacists. The new prescription rules issued by the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi, which took effect on Feb 1, require doctors to write the generic names of the medicines they prescribe, leaving the choice of brand to pharmacists. The authority was unwilling to answer questions about why the changes were made. "In the private sector, doctors are not happy," said Dr Kais Abu Taha, who runs a medical clinic in Abu Dhabi. "We prefer to write the brand names for patients because our experience tells us that this medicine is better than that. I know that some of the generic names are not effective."

Some doctors also expressed concern about pharmaceutical regulations in some non-western countries, saying they were not strict enough. They said that was why they often preferred name brands over the lower-price generics. But not all doctors are persuaded. "There is no difference in the medication," said Dr Lamya el Barasi, the director of pharmacy at Al Noor Hospital. "It is the same molecule." Brand-name medicines and their generics have the same active ingredients. For example, the non-prescription painkiller Panadol and Tylenol, its North American equivalent, both contain paracetamol, which also is known as acetaminophen. amcmeans@thenational.ae