Singapore is opening its doors up to a whole new world of medication. According to The Straits Times, six branded drugs will lose their patents over the next two years. What does that mean? It means, cheaper health costs with the prices of some drugs dropping by up to 70%. It means the market is open to producing equivalents to the pills that used to be solely produced under one particular brand. It means you need to be careful about what medication you are subscribed, and even more careful about what you give your kids.
The list of the pills that are scheduled to lose their patency over the next few years are as follows;
- Zyprexa, set to lose its patency as early as next month is a drug that prevents psychosis including schizophrenia.
- Lipitor is the world’s largest selling drug. It reduces cholesterol and will lose its patency in November.
- Plavix is a blood-thinning drug, set to lose its patency in May 2012.
- Enbrel helps with rheumatiod arthritis and will lose its patency it October 2012.
- Seroquel also deals with schizophrenia and depression and will have generic substitutes in 2012.
- Singulair is used to prevent asthma attacks and goes generic in 2012.
Not many of these drugs target young ones, but if you are using them, or your family is, you will be faced with the choice of either switching to one of it’s generic substitutes, at a lower price, or continuing with the brand you were always using.
Pricey Pills – worth the money?
What is the difference? Does a lower price mean you are getting lower quality or facing health risks? This might not be the case. Factors like competition play a part. As there are various players in the market now producing similar medication, price will automatically drop, as we are moving away from a monopoly-like situation. It is often the case that the original patented brand will not lower their prices, but in some cases they have.
Regina Soejanto-Moo, mum of a baby boy, says, “A more expensive product doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be suitable for a particular child. The challenge is to find a product that works!” This is a sensible way of deciding on how to medicate your child, in the sense that every child reacts differently to certain medication, so the safe way to go is to see a doctor, but know what drugs are available on the market beforehand. Fran, one of our readers, warns, “Be aware, that in Singapore, private clinics earn from medicines they dispense. However, in public hospitals or polyclinics, the doctors don’t have any stakes in pharmaceutical sales.” So if your doc is strongly recommending a particular drug, ask questions as to why this is so? You should also ask what other medication is available that is similar and what the differences are.
It is understandable that health care in Singapore is expensive, this provides people that could not afford a certain drug with alternatives that may cure them. It is however important to realise that although most doctors claim that the generic equivalent is as safe and takes between 90 and 240 days to be approved, patients that are already using the patented drug may not react well if the drug is replaced. People who are undergoing surgery or have illnesses that do not allow room for error should also avoid using generic substitutes.
(Additional reporting and writing by Anjali D’Mello)