NEW DELHI:The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) is developing a mobile app that will allow people to buy cheaper generic versions of costly medicines. After a doctor prescribes medicines, a patient who has downloaded the app can spot all its generic versions available in the market and stores stocking them.
The app will also list the prices of the drugs with their names and give information on the distance of the chemist shops from the patient’s location. The software for the mobile app is being prepared by a joint team of the MoHFW and the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers (MoCF), said a health ministry official.
The official said the project, a brainchild of Health Minister J P Nadda, is inspired by a similar programme being run by the United States Food and Drug Administrator (US-FDA) through which a consumer can know about shortages by surfing a drug’s generic name.
A generic drug is identical—or bio-equivalent—to a brand name drug in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics and intended use. Although generic drugs are chemically identical to their branded counterparts, they are typically sold at substantially lower prices. According to an estimate by US-FDA, generic drugs save consumers $8 billion-$10 billion a year at retail pharmacies.
The decision to launch the mobile app is a part of the ministry’s effort of promoting generic drugs to address the problem of high medical costs. It had earlier launched the Jan Aushadhi brand of medicines, which are low-cost generic drugs. Under this scheme, the Centre procures medicines in bulk from public and private manufacturing firms and rebrands them. These are then sold in the retail market at a competitive price, allowing consumers to buy a cheaper yet quality product.
The mobile app scheme will begin by listing of a little more than 500 essential medicines, including antibiotics, painkillers, vitamins and medicines used in treatment of cardiovascular, respiratory, diabetes and gastroenterology diseases. The list of medicines will be procured from the National Formulatory of India, a repository brought out by the government on medicines and their chemical composition.
India’s pharma retail market is dominated by branded products. Firms spend big amounts in creating brands. But, since prescription-based medicines cannot be promoted through advertisements, companies often push the brands through doctors and chemists.
What’s in the App?
■ After a doctor prescribes medicines, a patient can spot all its generic versions available in the market and where they are in stock
■ The app will list the prices of the drugs with names
■ It will provide information on the distance of the stores from the patient’s location