The Telegraph
Monday , September 5 , 2011
Since 1st March, 1999
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Right to choose your medicine

When your doctor prescribes medicines, does he/she write only the brand name or does he/she write the generic name or the chemical name of the drug too? If it were the former, then I would suggest that you ask for the generic name also.

There are several reasons why you ought to know the generic name of the drug being prescribed. First, it helps in avoiding medication errors. Either because of the doctor’s illegible handwriting or because of similar sounding brand names, you might well end up with a wrong medication. There have been many instances of chemists making a mistake while reading the prescription. On the other hand, if you have the generic name too, such mistakes can be eliminated.

Second, you might be allergic to certain medicines and from the brand name you will not be able to identify the medicine you are allergic to. So, you need to know the chemical name before purchase in fact, at the time the prescription is written by the doctor.

Third, certain brands are specific to certain states and are not available in others. This problem can, however, be overcome if you have the generic name.

Fourth, generic drugs cost much less than the branded ones and you have the choice of buying a generic drug. Even among the brands, there could be substantial difference in price. So, once you have the generic name, you can ask your chemist to give you price options. However, you must keep in mind the strength of the medication prescribed.

In May last year, the union government instructed all central government hospitals and dispensaries to prescribe as far as possible, only generic drugs and avoid brand names. Subsequently, several state governments have issued similar instructions. As far as private hospitals and practitioners are concerned, there is already a mandate by the Indian Medical Council for prescription of generic names. The Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regultions, 2002, says, “Every physician should, as far as possible, prescribe drugs with generic name and shall ensure that there is a rational prescription and use of drugs”. So, ask the doctor to write down the brand name and the generic name too.

There are also a number of websites that might help you. is one such site. is more specific to India and helps you compare prices of different brands too.

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