The Indian Government has banned 337 combination drugs a few days ago resulting outrage from the pharmaceutical companies across the country. Patients and doctors got puzzled as well by this ban and 40% of the doctors opposing the ban and patients do not know whether it is good or bad.
However, the ban is neither sudden nor irrational as we are thinking. Many of these Fixed-Dose Combination drugs have only State Drug Administration approval and running without clearance from the Centre and have no therapeutic justification or proven results.
The combination drugs are prepared by combining fixed doses of two or more pharmaceutical ingredients to make a single dose. Surprisingly, nor the combined side effects of these formulations or the interactions of these drugs among themselves has been tested. This poses significant risk to the individuals taking the formulation. The risk may not visible immediately, but affect vital organs of the body in the long run. Moreover, there is no proof that the combination is giving better results than any of the single compounds used in the formulation. The combinations of drugs are usually nothing but gimmicks spread by the pharmaceutical companies to shoot up their profit.
It is quite obvious that the pharmaceutical companies got outraged as their only goal is to have profit and the ban hit them badly. They think very little regarding the health of the general population and long term outcomes of their products.
The strange thing is that 40% doctors are also unhappy. A recent survey suggests that 80% of the doctors were prescribing the banned drugs. But, that was before the ban and doctors can now prescribe other similar single drugs instead. So, why a chunk of them are unhappy? May be they are getting share of profit from these companies, or got habituated with prescribing these drugs and not willing to again think of a different course of action (we are lazy by nature) or maybe even not bothered about the consequences to the patients (only profit matters).
Now, for the general public it is essential to understand the consequences of such drugs. In a country like India, the general population tends to be very ignorant when it comes to know the ill effects of drugs, particularly in a long run. When in developed countries, people tend to avoid drugs and antibiotics as far as possible to negate the side effects of them, Indians jump into one without even consulting a doctor. An Indian on an average takes three times more medicines than an American.
We also have a strange perception that a doctor is good if he/she prescribes costly medicines and can cure the disease quickly within hours. This impatient behavior makes the doctor prescribe costly antibiotics (even when a cheap one or no antibiotics may be sufficient) to make them acceptable. The costly antibiotics are third or fourth generation drugs meant to be given when the first and second generation cheaper version fails to arrest the situation. This is creating patients resistant to third or fourth generation drugs, making them vulnerable to acute infection. Doctors also tend to give antibiotics (meant to cure bacterial diseases) in viral infection (infection caused by viruses) that has no benefit and only gives mental satisfaction to the patient (one may argue that it prevents secondary bacterial infection, but it is not true in most situations).
People also want to save money by not consulting a doctor and self medicate by taking some drugs given by the medical store personnel and stop receiving them once the symptoms go away (thus, not completing the course and producing resistant bacterial strains that is harmful for the individual as well for the society). If this is the situation with educated urban population, one can easily figure out the situation in rural and remote areas in our country.
It is high time we stop the unnecessary use of drugs and self medication. In today’s world, there is no lack of information and it is available at our fingertips. We have search engines and anyone can understand the adverse effects or the correct use of drugs by spending a few minutes over the search engines. It is the duty of an educated population to learn and pass it on to the uneducated mass.
This article was first published in KenFolios - Only interesting stories.