The Jakarta Post, JAKARTA | Wed, 02/11/2009 9:24 AM
Most generic medicines consumed here fall short of international standards, with drug companies complicit in the scam, experts said Tuesday.
“The generic drugs are often of far lower quality than patented ones,” Anugerah Corporation chairman W. Biantoro Wanandi told The Jakarta Post after an event to launch his book on community health.
He revealed that pharmaceutical companies had been dishonest in their claims concerning generic and patented drugs.
“They say generic drugs only differ from patented drugs in terms of the packaging, but the difference goes far beyond that,” the pharmaceutical expert said.
The ingredients used in making generic drugs can be of lower quality than those used in making patented drugs, he explained.
“What’s more, the process of making generic drugs tends to be lower in standards. Thus, traces of fine chemicals, which are pure chemical substances, may still be left in the finished product.”
These chemicals, he warned, were dangerous for the human body and could produce ill effects if allowed to accumulate.
Biantoro also said local drug makers currently used the Farmakope No. 4 of 1995 as a pharmacopoeia to determine their quality benchmark. A pharmacopoeia is a book containing standards for making compound medicines.
However, the standards used are outdated, he said, since the book referred to the 1995 United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) No. 22. The US government has issued new standards in its 2008 USP No. 31.
“The new pharmacopoeia contains many changes in drug quality standards,” Biantoro said.
“The government should adjust the nation’s drug standards accordingly, and make sure the pharmaceutical companies obey them.”
Generic drugs here are produced by state-owned drug companies such as Kimia Farma and Indofarma.
Community health expert Hasbullah Thabrany echoed Biantoro’s concerns, saying those in the public pharmaceutical sectors often distorted data in procurements and quality control documents.
“This results in low-quality drugs in public facilities,” he said at the book launch.
Biantoro added that the pharmaceuticals problem was just one of many plaguing the nation’s healthcare system.
“The government must take serious steps in improving its healthcare policies,” he said the event.
Lower-income people receive poorer health services, he explained.
“The number of doctors in remote areas are inadequate, and some don’t take their work seriously.”
He also said public healthcare facilities must be able to compete with private ones in terms of service and equipment.
“In order to ensure the sustainability of public healthcare centers, the government must have a clear health financing system.”
Such a system, he went on, was part of a social security mechanism under Law No. 20 of 2004, which obliged each citizen to pay an insurance fee commensurate with their salaries. The system is meant to provide a safety net for those with a lower income.
But despite passing the law five years ago, the government has not taken serious steps to implement it, Biantoro said. (dis)