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Generic drugs can be cheaper than branded ones by 60 per cent in Abu Dhabi

New ruling mandates Abu Dhabi pharmacies to sell affordable generic medicines from September 1

Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/XPRESS
All set for the new dispensation. The pharmacy at Mediclinic Airport Road in Abu Dhabi
XPRESS

Abu Dhabi: Some generic medicines that will be sold by Abu Dhabi pharmacies under a new mandatory requirement from September 1 will be cheaper than their branded counterparts by more than 60 per cent.

According to the new ruling by the Department of Health, all insured patients with prescriptions from doctors can expect pharmacies in the capital to offer generic medicines, which are the approved equivalents of the original brand and have the same efficacy and safety. But they can choose between the generic and branded versions and will only have to pay the difference between the Ministry of Health’s reference price and the cost of the medicines.

Complexity

The price depends on many factors. As Jose Sreedharan (right), general manager, operations, at Aster Pharmacy, said, “The price can vary significantly from manufacturer to manufacturer. It also depends on the molecule as some molecules are inherently expensive to manufacture based on their complexity.”

Giving examples of some of the most commonly used drugs, he said, “If we consider Atovastatin, the molecule in the medicine used for cholesterol control, the Ministry of Health’s listed price for the brand Lipitor 20mg is Dh259. Whereas the generic drug Ateroz 20mg, which has the same molecule, costs Dh103.50.” In other words, the generic drug is 60.04 per cent cheaper. Another common molecule Azithromycin whose originator Zithromax is sold for Dh81 comes for Dh33, or 59.26 per cent less, in the generic form – Azomax 250mg. Similarly the generic equivalent Amoxidin 625 of the antibiotic brand Augmentin 625 is 37.13 per cent cheaper (see box). Generic equivalents can be found for most brands of medicines.

Stefan Sickel (right), senior director - supply chain, Mediclinic Middle East which has nine pharmacies in Abu Dhabi,said, “Most medications that have been on the market for a number of years will no longer have a patent with the original manufacturer and will probably have a generic available. These include painkillers, antibiotics and certain chronic medications.” He said the new ruling which encourages the use of generic drugs within the UAE will ultimately drive down the overall money spent on medicines. Allaying fears over the efficacy of these alternatives, he said, “Mediclinic currently procures from local manufacturers. All local drug manufacturers are approved by the Ministry of Health and undergo vigorous and regular inspections.”

Sreedharan said, “In addition to price advantage, generic drugs are also more widely available. This is because one drug may be manufactured by more than one company, as opposed to branded products which are manufactured only by the company that owns the patent.”

The ruling spells a boom for local manufacturers. Jerome Carle (right), general manager of Julphar, a leading drug manufacturer in UAE with 13 factories, said, “We believe we are at an inflection point that will allow us to take advantage of the new opportunities. Julphar’s robust portfolio comprises 506 products which are registered in 52 countries. Our UAE-based facilities produce one million packs of medicine daily. We are building a solid pipeline with the launch of 25 new products in the UAE this year and 200 registrations in the region.” He said, “Our medicines target major therapeutic segments including gastrology, diabetes, cardiology, pulmonary care, pediatric care, pain management, wound care and antibiotics. With the ruling, more affordable medicines could extend treatment options in the public health sector, where fixed budgets place limits on treatment. For consumers, more affordable prices will widen medical insurance cover and reduce out-of-pocket payments.”

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