Generic Drugs In The Philippines

I believe legally these "generic ," drug stores are supposed to sell only to other drug stores in bulk. But they did sell me a box of propranolol. But it is not uncommon for drugs, common, non narcotic drugs, to be sold without prescription, even antibiotics, unfortunately. You really should require a prescription from a doctor for antibiotics and doctors counseling. People don't understand the importance of taking a full course of antibiotics when they do have to take them, should not take one for a headache as I have seen here. But I digress.

As I said, the drug I bought was generic propranolol, branded name: Inderal, the old common high blood pressure medicine, beta blocker, if I am spelling it right. I did not need it. But for the price of P100 (about $2) per 100 pieces of 20 mg I bought it anyway. I since gave it to a friend taking it because it is prescribed by his doctor. It is not the best and newest medicine available by far. But he is on a budget. The "generic," Inderal at Mercury and others is Peso 3 per 20 mg. But they rarely have it, sell only the "Branded,” for peso 13 for 20 mg! This is terrible to allow this to happen. The Government has a law that the doctors have to put the generic name on the prescription so the customer can have the generic when available. But the generic is never available. It is an excellent law, but because of "out of stock," something you hear often in developing countries when you want something cheaper than what they have, the law does not help. Let’s hope the Generic Drug Stores and Alpha, mentioned above, have success.

But wait! I do remember some of the vitamin B tabs at the Generic Drug Stores where more expensive than some United Lab "generic," drugs sold at Rose Pharmacy, also a big chain not unlike Mercury. United Labs has good vitamin C and many others at very competitive prices even at some of the drug stores that usually don't carry generic drugs. I don't know how they got inroads to the drugstores. But I know we all wish United Labs and others who make quality generic products at fair prices, continued success. The lobbyist for the drug companies say. "Filipinos prefer branded products." I don't doubt they do. Filipinos are more brands conscious that even those of us from the US. But unfortunately branded drugs most often are no better and are sold at prohibitive prices. If a Filipino has to have branded he may just have to continue to be sick or worse. I know most Filipinos want to be cured and generics if anything will do that and maybe if bought from the right place, be affordable. The current Administration, Arroyo administration has tried so hard to get generics in from India. But the drug lobby is so strong, so powerful, as in the States. Their only argument is that Filipinos like branded or so their studies show. I don't doubt their studies.

Don't get me wrong. Mercury and Rose and other big names do have some generics and they are good. But they don't have as many as they should have in my opinion and of others who would like to see more generics. In others I include even the present administration; I think the Ramos administration too. I don't think it was an issue in the Estrada administration, the last administration before the Arroyo one now expiring.

I like Rolls Royce but am happy to have my Toyota. I can almost afford it. I am sure a sick Filipino wants a medicine he can afford and will work well, first and foremost, one that is not expired though some drugs work long after expiration dates especially if kept in cool places. But better go to www.nih.gov to find out more about that from Medline or some other authority. That is beyond the scope of this comment and opinion. The point is, when illness strikes you need adequate and affordable medication when prescribed. I feel sure that is what the people really want, can forgo brand names. Brand names here are questionable anyway. There is one company, Roch, not to be confused with Roche, the famous US drug company. Or maybe is to be confused with the well established and respected Roche Company. Roch would not mean to do that! Without a strong FDA to protect folks, though there is a Philippine government agency trying hard, be careful when purchasing drugs here to get what you pay for and not to pay too much. Drugs over the years can eat up a lot of your budget in any country. Want to know if a certain drug can be purchased here? Remember, it may have a different name here than in your country. The only way I think you can find out for sure is to ask on our forum.

One of those places surely you will find a sick foreigner taking it. Lets hope is able to get it in generic form and lets hope this administration or the next one that gets in is more successful in getting generics "in stock," on the shelves be those from India, Thailand, the US or wherever there is a supplier that can break through the drug lobby that keeps blocking attempts to get more affordable drugs in the Philippines. The present administration, GMA, the Arroyo administration tried very hard to get Indian and Thai quality generics in. But the drug lobbies are even stronger. As they say, "In the US money talks." In the Philippines, where money is hard to find, comparatively, money screams!

The Philippine Law requires when prescribing medicine doctors include on the prescription the generic name of the drug prescribed. Sometimes, of course, patents have not expired on certain drugs. Then, no generic exist to be sold or bought. But most often there are generics available in the conventional supply pipeline, without going to India or Thailand. When generic do exist but the pharmacies refuse to carry them because they are not profitable as the expensive branded drug, sick, poor Filipinos are deprived of badly needed medicine. It is not unreasonable to consider those responsible for the lack of affordable life saving generic drugs to be criminals, felons, less than concerned with their fellow human beings, very much unlike the Filipino empathetic character and soul, kaluluwa. Let us all do our best to influence others and our loved ones to encourage the government to fight for affordable drugs for Filipino's.

Don Herrington
July 2009