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Continued from Previous……

After having examined the DRAP document, we now take up the matter of Generics and Brands in more detail.

First a few basic things.

A generic drug is a later version of a drug originally developed by the innovator company. It resembles the innovator drug in many respects but differs in finer details. The efficacy and safety profile are considered to be similar.

Generic drugs are sold all over the world and they have become mainstay of common people’s treatment owing to their prices which may be anywhere 20 – 80% lower than the innovator drug. Even in the developed countries like US and Europe, generic drugs have gained a lot of market share. As soon as the patent is over, the market share of innovator drug quickly plummets.

Generic drugs in many countries, are sold just by their generic or chemical name. There is no brand name. You may find twenty Aspirin formulations from twenty manufacturers and these will all be called Aspirin. In some countries like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, generic drugs also have brand names and are more appropriately called ‘Branded Generics’.  This forms the basis of DRAP observation.

Few words about Pakistan market to put it in perspective.

Pakistan Pharma market has evolved in many ways during the last 30 years. The number of products has increased exponentially. Branded generics manufactured by Pakistani companies have gained greatly and their market share now is in excess of 80%. The multinational companies and their innovator drugs have been restricted to about 20% market share.

There are about 700 local pharma companies manufacturing and marketing their branded generic drugs. However, this number is misleading in the sense that over 90% market is held by the top 65 companies. Rest of the over 600 companies are scrambling for less than 10% market only. This is a highly uneven distribution pattern which leads to extremely diverse marketing practices.

With this preamble, let us try to see the power and contribution of brands. Over 80 brands have reached and crossed one billion mark. The top brand for a long time is Augmentin which is nearing seven billion rupees, Risek is approaching five billion rupees and so on.

The arguments in favor of brands or branded generics are as follows.

  1. Brand Ownership – it starts from the launch and stays till the brand is alive, which is almost forever. The brand manager, marketing and the corporate share the brand ownership and take full responsibility for everything related to their brand. The sense of responsibility and ownership grows as the brand grows. The corporate does not just sell the brand, it keeps on improving upon it in several ways. Material sources are improved, packaging gets better. The overall appearance and convenience are both considered. In the absence of brands, most of this activity will not carry any meanings anymore.
  2. Brand Nurturing – there is constant effort to establish, grow, sustain and defend the brand, its business and its market share. More and more information is shared to convince customers to prescribe brand, local studies are done, local data is generated and the brand growth on merit is strived for. These are not mandated by law, but these investments help to establish local brands. Innovator brands have the advantage of custom formulations and lot of data on file. It is no small feat to formulate the generic version which would have similar effects.   
  3. Brand Integrity – a product goes through the whole cycle of supply chain to get to the patient. Brand owners ensure that at all stages, brand integrity stays intact. This may include maintenance of certain storage and transport conditions. The entire credit of maintenance of cold chain for certain products till it reaches the patient goes to brand owners and not to regulatory staff of government. The corporates have educated and facilitated the retail pharmacies on this subject.
  4. Brand Diversity – the array of options for treatment of various diseases is also due to the brands. With relatively minor variations, more options are made available to physicians for better treatment of their patients. The diversity is helpful for both physicians and patients.
  5. Prescription Compliance – it is only due to the presence of brands that the prescription of a physician is mostly honored. There are reports that the pharmacy tries to switch the prescription to another brand of their choosing for their own interest. There are also reports that the pharmacies sometimes try to change the product altogether, but these cases are still contained, particularly in the urban areas where the patient is generally educated and more aware. The power of brands and brand owners is a powerful deterrent to the rising monster of pharmacy chains.

Have you ever wondered why all of a sudden, large pharmacies on prime locations have sprouted up? How can they afford such extravagance? More on this in the next part.

To be Continued……

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