Johannesburg - Today’s original medicines are tomorrow’s generics.
This is according to pharmacists and experts who say the affordable, accessible and just-as-effective generic medicines have steadily found favour with South Africans, with more than 50 percent of consumers choosing them over originals.
A generic contains an active ingredient that was originally protected by a patent so that only the originator company could market products that contained it. This allows the company to recover the research and developments costs.
On expiry of the patent, other companies are then permitted to manufacture products containing the ingredient.
The Pharmaceutical Society of South Africa’s Lorraine Osman said on Thursday: “Originator medicines are very important. They take time and money to develop, so it is easier for a manufacturer to focus on generics than originator medicines.
“It is estimated that it costs on average e1 billion (R13.4bn) and takes approximately 12 years to bring one originator medicine into the market, which is why they are slower to come to market than generics.”
This week is National Pharmacy Week, under the theme “Understanding generic medicines”. It aims to educate people about generics and making the right decisions about medicines.
All generics must be registered with the Medicines Control Council, Osman said, and the same basic principles apply – it must be suitable for the purpose it’s intended and comply with the prescribed requirements, and the registration must be in the public interest.
According to Paul Anley, chief executive of Pharma Dynamics, most people consider the generic industry as a threat to innovation and are concerned that there is a risk that generics will discourage research and development. He said the opposite was true.
“The truth is that the threat of generic competition drives originator companies to research innovative medicine more aggressively in order to benefit from the exclusivity period that the patent provides,” he said.
On average, generics were 50 percent cheaper than their brand-name equivalents, Anley said.
“Take the single exit price (SEP) of Norvasc (10mg), a popular brand-name cardiovascular drug, which costs R196.93 (including VAT), compared to the SEP of the generic equivalent, Amloc (10mg), which is priced at R108.31 – this cost difference saves South Africans about R55-million a year,” he said.
Osman said there would always be a need for originator medicines, however, as science advanced knowledge of disease and therapeutics.
This sentiment was shared by Val Beaumont, executive director of the Innovative Pharmaceutical Association South Africa.
She said: “As long as there are unmet medical needs, there will be a place for innovative medicines. It is important to note that once an innovative medicine has been on the market for around eight to 10 years, it actually becomes a generic – in other words, today’s innovative medicines are tomorrow’s generics, and so the cycle continues.”
With the Health Ministry’s launch of the Strategic Plan for The Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases 2013-17, Beaumont said there were already a number of generics used to treat lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
“These will be used before what they call first-line therapy. Occasions will arise where patients do not respond to these first-line therapies, and then newer and innovative medicines may be needed to treat the patient,” she said. - The Star