Doctors failing to prescribe generic drugs to their patients may soon face fines, a government minister said on Saturday.
Agung Laksono, the coordinating minister for people’s welfare, said all government health facilities and employees must prescribe and make available generic drugs for their patients.
Generic drugs are more affordable than brand-name medications but are just as effective.
“The only reason brand-name drugs cost more than generic ones is because of production costs, especially costs relating to research, promotion and packaging,” he said.
“The use of generic drugs helps patients to get a discount when they need expensive treatment,” he added.
Agung said a 2010 Health Ministry regulation, which has yet to be widely enforced, made it mandatory for state health facilities to use generic drugs unless none were available.
“The regional governments will monitor the usage of generic drugs,” he added.
He said that doctors or pharmacists at state facilities found not prescribing or providing generics drugs would be issued up to three verbal warnings before being slapped with an administrative fine.
Prijo Sidipratomo, the chairman of the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI), said on Sunday that he feared the regulation would not be 100 percent effective in promoting the use of generic drugs and reducing treatment costs for patients.
The association supports the idea of issuing an administrative fine to doctors who fail to prescribe generic drugs to their patients, he said.
However, “If the public hospital does not have the generic version of the drug, the doctor should still be able to prescribe the brand-name medication to the patient.”
Prijo said the best solution to control and promote the use of generic drugs was to improve distribution management and implement universal public health care as soon as possible.
The planned public health insurance scheme would only cover medication listed by the insurance company. Therefore it would be easier to monitor which doctors did not prescribe generic drugs, he said.
Prijo said that Indonesia has around 100,000 doctors spread across the nation. Most are concentrated in Java and resource-rich provinces such as Riau and East Kalimantan.
Prijo said that with universal public health insurance doctors working in state health institutions would receive the same income “whether they worked in remote or rich areas.”
Unfortunately, he said, the government was lagging in implementation of the scheme. The bill on social security, also known as BPJS, is still being deliberated at the House of Representatives.