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Doctors: We are not against generic drugs, provided they are clean and safe

28 February 2012 / 21:02:26  GRReporter
4413 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova
 
Yes or no to generic drugs? This has been one of the most discussed topics in Greece in recent days. As if the appearance of a term unclear to many people was not enough, a radio advertising spot by the union of doctors in Athens has caused fear among the citizens and the anger of the Ministry of Health.

The developments have forced the chairman of the Greek National Organization for Medicines Ioannis Toundas to convene an urgent press conference to reassure the public that generic drugs are completely safe for human health. According to him, their use is widespread in the European Union and this is imperative to happen in Greece in order to streamline the prescription issuing process, limit the unnecessary distribution of drugs and reduce the cost of insured persons. From today on, an advertising spot is running on the television, which explains that generic drugs are completely safe.

GRReporter contacted the president of the Medical Association in Athens Yannis Patoulis. He explained the reasons that have caused the reaction of the Association against the changes implemented by the health department.

"Generic drugs contain the same active ingredient contained in the original drugs. The patent of the producing pharmaceutical company expires after a period of ten years. Then, other manufacturers start producing the drug. In practice, this is about drugs-copies of the content of the active ingredient. But the generic drug is not completely identical to the original drug because it contains additional and other substances that help or not the absorption of the active ingredient in the medicine."

Yannis Patoulis said that Greek physicians are not against generic drugs. "We are "for" the use of branded and tested generic drugs, especially those produced by Greek pharmaceutical companies. They have earned our trust through their clinical trials and doctors’ therapies to their patients, with the result that their health is in excellent condition. On the other hand, we are against the "anonymous" uncontrolled generic drugs that can be imported from any third world country and that are produced in underground facilities there."

What doctors do not agree with is the provision of the new law on health, which is to be voted and which provides that they will prescribe not a drug as of today, but the active ingredient. The pharmacist would therefore give the patient the two available cheaper generic drugs containing it. "We think this is a problem because the person responsible for the treatment is the doctor and nobody else. When the doctor prescribes only the active ingredient and the pharmacist gives the cheapest generic drug, which will be "unknown" in most cases, then the doctor will not be responsible for the treatment but the drug taken will be. Because the patient takes the active ingredient, but it is unclear whether it is absorbed by his body."

He acknowledged that generic drugs are not new to Greece and the world. At the same time, however, he stated that the research conducted in Greece is insufficient. "The difference is that according to the chairman of the National Agency for Medicines, in the last five years, one thousand tests of 7300 drugs were made, a thousand of which were generic. This means that the control was not sufficient because of insufficient staff in the Agency. Our considerations are due to the fact that it will not be clear whether a specific generic drug known to nobody would be sufficient for the treatment of the patient in terms of its dozing and absorption by the human body."

Doctors believe that the introduction of this system would be "disastrous for public health. It will cause confusion among doctors and especially among patients. Our statements of today will remain as a legacy for tomorrow when the responsibilities of those who have not listened to them will be significant," said Yannis Patoulis.

He cited the 18 European countries that had to be positive about the innovative treatment of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, but their number has dropped to 12. "The pressure by us could further reduce their number and Greek citizens will not feel as "second hand" citizens compared to other Europeans, at least with regard to their diseases."

The doctors’ opinion is shared by the members of the union of people suffering from cancer in Athens. "We believe that only doctors are able to assess which drugs are appropriate. They will vote on the law in parliament, but it is unclear who ensures the quality of the drugs and that they are the exact drugs the patient should take."

According to the union chairwoman Zoe Gramatoglou, cancer patients in the country fear that there may be delays in the import of drugs, because the law states that before being imported in Greece, they must be imported in the remaining 18 countries."

The Ministry has disputed these claims and said that Greece is far behind in the use of generic drugs compared to other countries in Europe and the goal is 50% of the drugs in the country to be generic. The memorandum of economic aid to the country provides for limiting drug costs from 5.1 billion euro in 2009 to 2.88 billion euro this year. The "war" that has unfolded in the media  has spread into social media, where a group called "No to drug-killers imposed by the Troika and the government," collected about 3000 fans and organized a protest outside the Greek Parliament.

Tags: SocietyDoctorsGeneric drugsCost of healthcareSuffering with cancerPharmaceutical companies
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