Cheap generic drugs are made available primarily to provide a more affordable alternative to branded medications. Generics have been well-received by the public due to the demand for more medical products that would not be expensive and thus, within the means of the poor and average-income citizens to buy. Cheap generic drugs are fast becoming popular in many countries that cannot fully subsidize public health care and the costs of medicines.
In Mexico, for instance, the leading retailer of generic medications is Wal-Mart de Mexico, or called simply as Walmex. It originally launched a medicine line of 150 cheap generic drugs, each of which sells for no more than $3.50. This was launched due to the consistent demand for affordable medicines and the need for a one-stop shop or pharmacy that sells drugs at lower prices. Walmex has Medi-Mark, a line of generic medications that have been made available at the retailer’s supermarket chains. The generics line includes pain relievers, paracetamol, as well as more complex medications like cafergot, a medication for treating migraine.
According to an industry source, some of the medications that are being manufactured by different laboratories will cost around 90 percent less than the leading brands sold over the counter. This particular brand of cheap generic drugs (Medi-Mark) is now a permanent fixture, and not a trial program as most people initially thought it would be. Walmex medications are from Canifarma, a group that distributes medicines made by more than 150 different drug manufacturers. In case any reports or comments are made, it will also be directed to Canifarma. Walmex’s mother company, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., has also launched a similar plan in the United States last year. However, their prices are for $4 per perscription, and not around $3.50. The US-based Wal-Mart reported that their $4 prescription medications now account for more than 35 percent of all prescriptions filled at the company’s stores.
However, not all news about cheap generic drugs end on a positive note. In India, the Indian Parliament has approved legislation by the parliament’s lower house to ban domestic firms from manufacturing low-cost generic copies of patented drugs. The new legislation, which will eventually replace the current patent law and was allowed to copy patented drugs (as long as they use a different kind of manufacturing process), still has to be sanctioned by the upper chamber before it becomes law.
The Indian governement, for its part, believes that patent recognition is an essential pre-condition for India’s drug industry to further its own drug research and development, as well as to attract foreign partners. Health activists, on the contrary, are urging the government to reconsider because millions of AIDS patients would suffer from the withdrawal of affordable medications should patenting be pursued.
More than just an issue of pricing and profit, the manufacture of generic drugs has become a social and moral issue. The availability of medicines is now about saving the lives of millions of people who suffer from disease; and making better health more attainable through affordable prices of