According to the FDA, “A generic drug is identical -- or bioequivalent -- to a brand name drug in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics and intended use.” In fact, no drugs can be sold in the market without approval from the FDA. This means that the generic drugs available are only as ‘safe’ or ‘dangerous’ as the other branded ones.
Back in the summer of 2012, an episode of the extant television series ‘Satyameva Jayate’ posed a question to its viewers, “Does (Indian) healthcare need healing?” This was supplemented with information about the exorbitant costs of medicine and the work being done by Dr. Samit Sharma to bring those costs down. Dr. Sharma is the former President of the Rajasthan Medical Services Corporation (RMSC). He started dispensaries by the name of ‘Jan Aushadhee’ in many locations in Chittorgarh that sold generic medicines.
Inspired by his work, a group of students from BITS Pilani set out to work on creating an expansive database encompassing all types of medicines available in India. With some help from Dr. Sharma and months of rigorous data collection from NPPA (National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority) and various other sources, they launched TrueMD on 17th June this year. The website has a database of over 1 lakh medicines. This search engine suggests generic medicines and cheaper branded alternatives that are exactly identical to the drug being searched.
The service is absolutely free and the website also provides open source APIs so that other developers can use it to create healthcare apps that may benefit society. One of such developers has already made an Android and an iOS app using the open source API provided by TrueMD. This endeavour by the team of TrueMD has been commended by many notable personalities.
Why are generic drugs much more affordable?
Since generic drug makers do not develop a drug from scratch, the costs associated with bringing the drug to the market are lesser; therefore, generic drugs are usually less expensive than brand-name drugs. Sometimes they can be 100 times cheaper than their branded counterpart.
The ugly truth
“If there is such a huge difference, then why doesn’t my doctor prescribe me generic drugs in the first place?” is a question that many patients have.
This is because there are huge profit margins in branded medicines and another factor is that people are unaware and ignorant.
“It is astonishing to see how drastically the price of the same medicine can vary from brand to brand. We believe that affordable healthcare is a right, not a privilege,” says Aayush Jain, one of the creators of the website.
Scenario in the US and India
Nearly 80% of prescriptions in the US are for generic medicines, whereas in India this number is negligible. What’s ironic is that India is one of the world’s largest exporters of generic medicines! It is estimated that a household’s expenditure on medicines comprises 50% of the total healthcare expense. Generic medicines will help in reducing this cost significantly.
Future plans of the TrueMD team
The team is also working on a project which they believe will revolutionize the healthcare industry. They are building a telemedicine platform which lets the patient consult a doctor from anywhere. This platform also provides the feature of storing the user's health records securely at one place.
They believe this idea just might be the beginning of a modern era in Indian healthcare!
Do check out their website here for more details.
Here is an infographic from the FDA to highlight some of the facts and figures
Disclaimer : Always consult your doctor before taking any form of medicines.