Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Expensive Medicines and Unreadable Prescriptions

I have had some minor health issues lately, and two thoughts have been playing on my mind a lot...

The first one is related to the SC ruling denying patent rights to Novartis on its cancer drug. Can you believe how much Novartis charges? 1.2 lakh per month, and this is a drug you need to take life long! Forget the poor and the middle class, this puts the medicine out of reach of even the rich! Bear in mind, these drugs are sold by Indian pharma companies in a generic form for 4000-8000 per month! Yes, pharma companies may spend money on R&D, but surely these medicines can be sold for much cheaper, and not be another way to add to the agony of the patients. Imagine a middle class father whose child has blood cancer, or a husband whose wife is suffering. Does he deny her the medicine, or does he spend and live in poverty for the rest of their wretched lives? Hopefully the SC ruling in India will pave the way for cheaper generics not just in India, but all over the world.

The other issue, though less serious, has kept me thinking a lot too. Most doctors scribble prescriptions in a way that only pharmacists can read them, that too, with much difficulty. The dosage, the timings for the dosage, the after-effects, diet requirements are rarely explained. For educated folks like us, it is a challenge. Iamgine what happens to the illiterate, people who cannot check out the meds on Google, people who cannot read labels and figure out what medicine should be taken, and when. I was at the pharmacy yesterday, and a poor man and his wife were standing there, staring at the strips of tablets that were being dished out to them, clueless about what was what. So he pays for those medicines and goes home - and then what? How does he even figure out what to take and when?


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