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Kenya needs to increase use of generics to combat rising costs Posted 17/11/2017

Kenyan medical insurance management firms are advising that they will only pay for generics and not brand-name prescriptions.

The announcements come after a report by The East African found Kenya to be using way more brand-name drugs than other countries in the region. A whopping 70% of the prescription drugs used by Kenyans are brand-name drugs compared with 37% in Tanzania and 33% in Uganda.

This has led insurance companies to push for rules that will require hospitals to prioritize dispensing generics over brand-name medicines to patients as part of the plan to combat the rising cost of medical insurance.

Industry lobbying group, the Association of Kenya Insurers (AKI), is calling for a legal framework that will ensure doctors do not prescribe using brand names but only write down the generic name or active ingredient of the drug.

Kenyan insurance companies have a reason to be worried about the rising cost of medicines. In the third quarter of 2016 they posted a loss ratio of 76% across the 18 firms offering medical insurance cover, and this despite increasing insurance premiums. The firms blame fraud and rising medical bills –  including prescription of brand-name medicines – for their losses.

AKI chairman Patrick Tumbo says that drugs make up an average of 45% of patients’ hospital bills, and the ratio is even higher in health facilities that dispense brand-name medicines. He added that ‘when the cost of health care goes up, we are also forced to raise premiums. Generic drugs can be up to 80% cheaper than branded drugs but this information is not passed onto patients’.

Payers say that mistrust in Kenya over the use of generics stems from misunderstandings over generics and the rise of counterfeit drugs in the country. Patients need to be educated that generics are effective and affordable and can be used safely and with confidence. Generics, which meet the same exacting safety standards as originator drugs, should be distinguished from counterfeit or fake drugs, which are harmful to patients as their safety and efficacy cannot be guaranteed [1]. 

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1. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Pfizer and US pharmacies fight counterfeit medicines [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2017 Nov 17]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Pharma-News/Pfizer-and-US-pharmacies-fight-counterfeit-medicines

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Source: Business Daily Africa,The East African

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