India kicks branded generics to the curb

Drugmakers, get ready to revise your playbooks. Branded generics may be a no-go in India. Continuing their assault on drug costs, government officials are rolling out a new generics-only licensing policy. New off-patent drugs would win approval under their generic names only.

So say goodbye to new branded generics in India. "We want to gradually move towards a future where we will not issue any brand or trade names," Drug Controller General G.N. Singh said (as quoted by the Economic Times). "We are going all out to push generic drugs solely for the benefit of the public."

Recently, the Indian government required doctors to issue scripts for, say, paracetemol, the pain reliever sold generically in the U.S. as acetaminophen. They're no longer allowed to specify one of the many brand names--Crocin, Lupisulide, et al.-- that individual drugmakers use to distinguish their paracetemol products. To continue the example with U.S. drug names, that means no more prescriptions for Tylenol, only for acetaminophen.

In theory, Big Pharma's hopes for branded generics in emerging markets are sound. In India, as in plenty of other emerging markets, there are hundreds of versions of some generic drugs, made by companies of vastly different reputations. A Big Pharma-branded generic stands out in that crowd, just as domestic drugmakers' branded generics do.

But the Indian government wants to commoditize generic drugs, to push prices downward. "We have sent the order to all state health secretaries asking them to instruct their drug licensing issuing authority to issue licenses only on generic names and not on branded or trade names, which is the usual practice now," Singh said. "A branded drug can be 10 times more expensive than a generic variant." And that, for Big Pharma, was exactly the point.

- read the Times story