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Generic drugs are the key to lowering the cost of healthcare

Source: The Daily Nation

BY DR WILLIAM MWATU

2nd July 2017

he healthcare system in Kenya has undergone significant changes that are meant to improve service delivery, among them, the devolvement of its management to the county governments and the introduction of universal healthcare through the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF).

However, there are serious challenges that are hindering the progress of the sector such as industrial strikes by nurses and doctors, the lack of medicines and other vital equipment key to the delivery of good services in public health institutions. Most Kenyans visiting public hospitals are often forced to buy medicines from private chemists as some hospitals are not stocked with the commonly used medicines. This exposes them to risks such as fake and unsafe medicines.

Concerns about counterfeits are so high, that most people think that generic drugs are counterfeits. Intensive consumer education is needed in this area, as the public still holds some misconceptions about generic medicines. Some think or confuse them with counterfeit medicines, as they are cheaper than branded drugs. This misconception works against a government that has embraced the use of generic drugs, and supplies generic versions of branded medicines at significantly lower prices.

The high cost of medical care in Kenya is partly due to the high cost of medication. The cost of drugs can make up about half or an average of 45 per cent of patients’ hospital bills.

This cost can significantly be reduced by the use of generic drugs. Misconceptions against generics are fuelled by the thought process that if something is cheap, then it’s not the best quality. This is not an absolute truth. I’d like to address the root problem of this notion, particularly in medicines, by clearly explaining what generic and brand medicines are.

EQUALLY GOOD

Some patients believe that generic drugs are inferior to brand name drugs, because they differ in price, colour, markings, shape or size. Although there may be stark differences, the fact of the matter is that both generic and brand name drugs have identical active ingredients. The term ‘active ingredient’ simply means the ingredient or the chemical substance that makes the drug work. Understanding this makes all the difference.

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