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Generic medicines: Reducing healthcare cost

According to IMS Health Institute, the US healthcare system saves nearly $2.2 trillion from 2009 to 2019, by substituting generic medicines from its original counterpart.

Despite that, Malaysia however, has a low total expenditure for generic medicines.

It is estimated that Malaysia spends only 30% of its total spending on pharmaceuticals on generic medicines, while 70% is from innovator products.

Studies showed that innovator products sold in Malaysia were 27-90% more expensive than the generics, leading to high healthcare expenditure.

Healthcare expenditure in Malaysia

In 2011, the total expenditure on prescription medicine for government hospitals and primary health clinics was RM 1.767 billion.

The high expenditure may be due to high medicine prices, poor availability of generics as well as high use of innovator or branded medicines

Thus, World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the generic medications policies to be implemented in member countries to promote the availability and affordability of essential medications.

Generic medicines are equivalent to its innovator brand in terms of:

  • Dosage form
  • Safety
  • Strength & Route of administration
  • Quality
  • Performance
  • Characteristics
  • Intended use

To sum up, it is an equal substitute for its original counterpart.

The role of generic medicine is to provide a more affordable alternative than its innovator brands, without compromising with its safety, efficacy and quality.

However, knowledge on generic drugs is still low.

In fact, a study revealed that many patients were not aware of the similarities of generic and original brand medication.

On the other hand, another study concluded that majority of physicians from private medical centres in Malaysia had negative perceptions on generic drugs.

Consequently, it may cause of limited use of generic medicines in the private medical centre.

Policy to encourage use

Generic Medicines Policy (GMP), a part of National Medicines Policy is formulated to encourage the use of generic medicines among different healthcare stakeholders.

Other than that, implementing national medicine pricing policy which controls drug prices in both public and private sector, will be a great effort to reduce expenditure and improve medicine affordability in Malaysia.

In conclusion, there are several techniques that can be implemented to encourage use.

This is without forgetting that both patients and prescriber must be educated on the similarities and differences of generic medications.

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Reference

Ahmad, N. S., & Islahudin, F. (2018). Affordability of essential medicine prices in Malaysia’s private health sector. 

https://www.pharmacy.gov.my/v2/sites/default/files/document-upload/gmap-book-2013.pdf

Ministry of Health Malaysia. Malaysian National Medicines Policy

Rohit Kumar, M. A. (2015). Knowledge and perceptions of physicians from private neducak centres towards generic medicines: a nationwide survey from Malaysia. Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice.

Wong, Z. Y., Hassali, M. A., Alrasheedy, A. A., Saleem, F., Yahaya, A. H., & Aljadhey, H. (2014). Patients’ beliefs about generic medicines in Malaysia