10 January 2019

Kenya: Kemsa Urges Counties to Buy Generic Drugs

The government has asked counties to consider buying generic drugs to make healthcare more affordable to Kenyans.

Mr Eliud Muriithi, the director of commercial services at the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) assured the Nation during an interview that counties will still get value for their money and give Kenyans quality medicine at affordable prices.

He confirmed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends prescription by generic names, a system the Ministry of Health has adopted through the Kenya Essential Medicines List 2016.

The document lists all drugs that should be in public hospitals by their generic names.


Mr Muriithi said the government prefers generic drugs, and that Kemsa largely procures them to reduce costs.

"Kemsa does not stock branded drugs. Only in a few instances will Kemsa procure branded drugs; but even then, only after a survey is done and recommends a particular brand," he said.

He said it is difficult for counties to buy many drugs if they insist on originals when they can get more of generic drugs, which are cheaper and just as effective.

"We procure branded drugs only in situations when we know they are safer to use than generic ones," he said.

On January 3, Madison General Insurance directed doctors to strictly prescribe generic medicines for its customers.

But the doctors vowed to defy the order and accused the insurer of attempting to curtail their autonomy.


The Kenya Medical Association (KMA) said neither Madison nor any other insurance company has the right to limit them to the type of drug they prescribe for patients.

KMA member Andrew Were said that while generic drugs are considered to be the same as branded ones, their compositions differ.

He said certain illnesses or levels of illness can be treated only using original drugs, which is something only a doctor can determine.

"A patient might be suffering from an infection, and as a doctor I feel like the generic drug offered is not working. So I need to have the option of prescribing the original drug. My obligation is to the patient, not the insurer," he said.

Dr Were said that while the insurer is seeking to cut costs and make healthcare affordable, affordability should not take precedence over the quality of healthcare.

"There is a delicate balance; and even as we push for cheaper drugs, the government should look into factors such as taxation of imported drugs, which would make drugs affordable," he said.


Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists' Union (KMPDU) Secretary-General Ouma Oluga advised doctors to ignore the directive.

"If an insurance company refuses such treatment, opting for an alternative, then it is the patient to deal with the person paying for it. It must not be the doctor.

"Doctors are better off ignoring anything that interferes with the relationship between the treatment prescribed and the patient. That is my advice to doctors. Remain autonomous," he added during an interview.


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