When generic prescription writing was mandated in the Philippines, it definitely confirmed that Pinoys, rich or poor, want a piece of the action. And by action, this meant getting some savings, especially if you need to buy medicines for long term treatment, especially for diseases that comes with aging. The problem is, despite best efforts from government, we have barely scratched the surface on how to guide someone to get a better deal on generic drugs, without feeling guilty that we may have compromised on the drug’s safety or potency — by not buying the doctor’s specific order.
The things you will read here are not recommended by most pharma companies as doing so may affect marketing strategies or give away trade secrets. I am also no expert but I have more than 30 years of pharma operational experience tucked away in my belt, before I retired into more personal and mundane endeavors. So here is the practical side of buying on generic prescriptions.
- Know the generic (chemical) name of your drug. From top-to-bottom, this is the first name you see, usually bounded by parenthesis in a script. The generic name can also be the one inside a box, if on a printed material like its own packaging. Even if your prescription came with a specific brand name (this is the name BELOW the generic name, also known as trade name), you can and SHOULD try to buy a generic equivalent whenever you can. That’s the beauty of generic prescription; the ultimate purchasing power should rest on the consumer, no less.
- A product with many brands means that there is an innovator (the original product of research and development) and several branded or generic equivalent drugs. Prices range from the most expensive (the innovator) to the unbelievably low-priced. Hence, if you just want the lowest bidder, most likely you will get it, almost uncontested, unless the store staff declares it out of stock.
But if you could be more discriminating and objective about buying process (we did establish that we want value for money, right?), one strategy would be to go for the mid-priced product/s. Why the deliberate midway-pricing? One such company who utilizes “friendly” pricing is Filipino-owned Medlink Pharma. Seldom does one find a company who espouses that a decent margin should always come from practicality, business sense and, yes, even social responsibility.
- At this point, you are looking at the generic name, preferring the brand or generic priced mid-range and marketed and distributed by a reputable pharma company. But since we are dealing with medicines and not mere consumer products, we can also take a look at who manufactured the drug. If you have not done your research ahead of time (here’s a list of FDA-approved drug makers), this one should be easy to ask from the store clerk. Drug manufacturers are also stratified, therefore, you can be more assured of the drug working as it should, from its FDA-accreditation.
- The last tip makes the most sense of all. You can always go back to your doctor to ask for an alternative brand (unless what was prescribed is still under patency or protection). For sure, your physician will do this for you than sacrifice non-compliance due to inability to fund treatment.
Exercise your right of decision as an intelligent consumer or concerned patient, or bequeath that right to another and bear the consequences of staying uninformed.
Disclaimer: While drug substitution is commonly practiced in the local setting, this blog does not endorse substitution for medicines used to treat critically-ill patients (e.g. those with cardiovascular diseases and the like) as the margin of potency and safety of such drug may depend on exact bioequivalence to the innovator drug.