More expensive drugs do work better on patients

  • Letters
  • Saturday, 10 Jul 2004

I WAS appalled by the “judgmental” comments made by the chief pharmacist of the University Malaya Medical Centre on doctors “choosing” to prescribe more expensive drugs when there were cheaper alternatives available (“Doctors prescribing expensive drugs,” The Star, July 7). 

The chief pharmacist could have done better to seek clarification from the doctors as to the reasons why such drugs were used.  

Had it not occurred to him that perhaps, just perhaps, these drugs have better safety/adverse effect profiles or better efficacy compared to the cheaper alternatives? 

Of course, his points may be valid, but I would have respected his opinions if he had referred to any evidence, for example studies done in his centre to disprove the cost-effectiveness of the “branded” drugs. 

As a psychiatrist, I (and my colleagues can attest to this) have had experience prescribing the newer, more expensive anti-psychotics mentioned in the article, for psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia, and have noted that most patients have had lesser troublesome side effects (as compared to the older drugs) and therefore these patients have proven to be more compliant with taking their daily medication. 

This improved compliance means that they are able to stay clear from their symptoms and enjoy a better quality of life.  

Most of these patients and their families, too, have noted this difference and really detest hearing the news that they have to be put back on the older drugs when the newer ones become unavailable due to lack of budget. 

Evidence gathered from worldwide research also lends support to this claim. 

With the best interests of the patients and their families at heart, does this make my colleagues and I “brand-conscious” doctors? 

We also must not forget that the UMMC, being a teaching hospital and in the forefront of medical research in the country, deserves to be equipped with the latest and most efficacious drugs. 

J.P. REDDY, Kuala Lumpur. (via e-mail) 

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