Generic drugs use key to reducing healthcare costs

Cosmos Pharmaceutical Limited,packaging department in Nairobi. [David Njaaga,Standard]
James Bosire believes generic drugs are not good. But he is very wrong.

"At any given time a family member or I get sick and are asked to buy medicine, I always go for original drugs," he says, adding that he does not believe in the efficacy of generics.

Bosire recalls how sometimes back he’d taken his wife for treatment and heard someone advising patients to purchase original drugs and not generics.

Like Bosire, thousands of people hold different views about generic medicine. They have no idea and therefore do not appreciate the importance these drugs can play in accessing healthcare.

Yet, the best generic drugs are not only affordable, but are created to be the same as original drugs in dosage, form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality and performance characteristics.

Rolando Satzke, Chief Executive Officer, Cosmos Limited, says generic medicines manufactured by Cosmos in Kenya are similar to originals in quality and clinical benefits.

"We are the leading manufacturer of generic medicines. They are quality drugs offering healthcare treatment at affordable costs," he explained.

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Rolando continues: "Our generic drugs are the most used in some of the chronic diseases. 300,000 Kenyans use Cosmos diabetes or hypertension medicines daily."

Rolando explains that the notion that generic drugs are not suitable is due to lack of appropriate information. Rolando says 80-90 per cent of patients in developed countries like America and Europe consume generic medicines. Of late, the use of generics is steadily increasing internationally as a result of economic pressure on drug budgets, for providing substantially lower in price than originals.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Drug Information generic medicines enable huge cost savings as they create competition hence driving down prices.

"Use of generic medicines significantly reduces the cost of medicines to both governments and patients," explains WHO.

According to WHO, a striking example of the impact of generics is the evolution of prices on the antiretroviral (ARV) market.

The Drug Information states: "The median price per patient per year of first-line ARV therapy dropped from about $10, 000 to less than $100 with the introduction of generic FDCs, enabling the scaling-up of access to antiretroviral therapy from 0.5 million people on ARVs in 2003 to 15.8 million globally in 2015."

Rolando says Cosmos Limited was the first company in Kenya to manufacture ARVs in 2012, thereby helping reduce the then high cost the drugs. As a company, explains the CEO, they would have wished to indicate prices on their drugs to minimize cases of consumers being exploited. He says the public should know that more affordable generics of high quality are available from globally reputable firms such as Cosmos. He said there is an urgent need to educate the public on drug information, especially generics.

"For such a move to be realized, it has to be a nationwide campaign," he said, adding that with good and well executed drug policies we can make huge savings and still deliver high quality healthcare for all.”

Catherine Wanjiru, Quality Control Manager at Cosmos says the generic drugs they manufacture are of high quality and just as effective as originals.

"We follow various international regulatory guidelines in manufacturing these drugs, such as International Organization for Standardization, Pharmaceutical Inspection Convention Scheme and World Health Organization," she explained.

She says the firm is audited by inspectors both local and international regularly who monitor drug products and certify that the medicines at all levels of the supply chain are safe, effective, and meet the WHO standards.

She says the firm has systems for sampling raw materials, analysis and testing using international standards and also regulated locally by government through Pharmacy and Poisons Board of Kenya.

"If the raw materials do not meet the quality standards they are immediately destroyed," she explained.

She explains that the company is devoted to maintain the highest quality standards of life saving medications by ensuring that what they release to the market is fit for human use.

Vimal P. Patel, Managing Director, Cosmos Limited says since its inception in Kenya in 1984, the firm has remained truthful to its ideals of producing the highest quality pharmaceutical products.

He says substandard drugs found in the Kenyan market are imports. He, however, laments that such culprits are not adequately punished.

"Unfortunately, even if they get caught, no action will be taken due to the weak legal systems. Some of the companies will change names and return with same drugs," he says.

Patel explains that generics must meet international standards before they are sold to the market. He adds that most patients in America and Europe use generics because they are equally affective.

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