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Pune’s medical stores are beginning to keep stocks of generic medicines which would benefit patients who otherwise spend huge sums on branded medicines reports the Times of India.

Generic medicines contain the same active ingredient responsible for a medicine's therapeutic action as the originator on which they are based. A generic drug can be compared to a branded product in dosage, strength and intended use.

The drug stores in the city which store generic medicines are Mitra Medicals, Parvati, Ashwini Medicals, Shukrawar Peth, Gangadhar Medical, Shaniwar Peth, M K Medical, Ganeshkhind Road, Raj Medicals, Parihar Chowk, Aundh, Tarachand Hospital's medical store, Rasta Peth, Niranjan Medico, Narayan Peth, Lokayatan, Law College road and Janlok Medicals, Hamalnagar, Market Yard.

The Medical Council of India (MCI) has taken up the task of promoting generic medicines in India. The apex statutory body has issued circulars to the deans of all medical colleges, directors of post-graduate institutes and presidents of state medical councils to ensure that every physician strives to prescribe drugs with generic names.

"Generic medicines ensure access to quality, safe and effective medicines while reducing the cost of pharmaceutical care. It can save purchasers between 20-90% of the total cost, while ensuring therapeutic equivalence. MCI's move is aimed at ensuring access to quality, safe and affordable treatment to all," Rajiv Yeravdekar, member of MCI's board of governors and dean of Pune-based Symbiosis Institute of Health Sciences (SIHS) told TOI on Tuesday.

As of 2008, 72% of total healthcare expenditure was privately funded, 89.5% of which was paid out of pocket by patients. During 1999-2000, 32.5 million patients fell below the poverty line after a single hospitalisation. As much as 40% of those hospitalised were forced to borrow money or sell assets to meet costs, and 23% of patients never sought treatment because of their inability to pay.

WHO estimates that 65% of India's population lacks regular access to essential medicines, a fact sheet by the Jan Swasthya Abhiyaan, Medicine Pricing and Universal Access to Treatment.

"There is no scientific reason for doctors to prefer an expensive brand medicine to cheaper versions, as both act exactly in the same way. However, because the factors behind pricing are complex and not understood well, doctors tend to equate high price with higher quality, and prescribe the costlier versions.

Doctors are also subject to advertising pressure from companies that manufacture the expensive versions, which influence their prescriptions. If a patient wants to save money, they should ask the doctor to prescribe the least expensive version of the needed medicine," said Abhay Shukla, national joint convener of Jan Swasthya Abhiyaan.