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Vidarbha region got its first generic medicine shop in November, 2012 thanks to the efforts of the Nagpur-based consumer forum, Janmanch, reports Down to Earth (DTE).

The shop, inaugurated in Yadav Nagar area in eastern Nagpur on November 11, has been receiving a large number of queries from patients from all over the city and outside according to Janmanch secretary Rajeev Jagtap.

According to Jagtap, the idea of such a shop arose from a 2009 article by noted health activist from Pune, Anant Phadke of the Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT). Janmanch found that Maharashtra did not have a single government-run generic medicine store. Also, the price difference between generics and branded drugs was immense. “For instance, the monthly cost of medicines for serious conditions like cancer, heart or kidney, which can go up to Rs 1 to 1.5 lakh in branded medicines, can be brought down to as little as Rs 7,000 to Rs 7,500,” he said.

Jagtap says there is an urgent need to raise awareness regarding generic drugs. “Many a time, the price difference can confuse patients. Many patients go for costly branded drugs they can’t afford because they fear that the cheaper generics may be fake. In fact, there is no difference between the two, as both have the same FDA certification.”

According to DTE, Nagaur district in Rajasthan has a number of generic drugs stores.

Jagtap says the greatest challenge to such an endeavor is cooperation from doctors. “At present, we are receiving many queries from patients who have been prescribed branded drugs, and want to find out if corresponding generics are available. What we are doing is providing information regarding generics to patients and telling them to get the prescriptions changed. We can’t change the drug at our end, because we may be blamed for anything that goes wrong.”

The forum, says Jagtap, has been working with doctors, requesting them to prescribe generics, at least to poor patients who are not able to afford branded drugs. “We also have plans to have the services of a medical practitioner in the shop itself for advice regarding generics, and are asking city doctors to volunteer for this job.”

The forum is making efforts to start more such shops across the Vidarbha region.

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