Patented and Generic Pharmaceutical Drugs: Perception and Prescription

Article excerpt


This research aims to determine perceptions of doctors under the employ of the government in Sarawak towards patented drugs and generic drugs. It also sets out to determine factors that affect doctors' prescribing decisions. The population consists of all the doctors working in the Sarawak government hospitals. This research utilizes both qualitative (interview) and quantitative (questionnaire) methods in obtaining data. Data from the interviews was analyzed and then placed in a questionnaire format. This was then analyzed using Factor analysis. Findings indicate that doctors have different perceptions towards patented and generic drugs and consider several factors in prescribing drugs.

Keywords: Pharmaceutical; Patented; Generic.


The pharmaceutical industry is a growing industry involved in research and development, manufacturing and marketing of medicines for mankind. Patent protection played a crucial role in the development of the pharmaceutical industry in the industrialized countries. Product patents and trademarks are the most important form of protection for the pharmaceutical industry (UNCTAD, 1981). The patents allow pharmaceutical firms protection for their patented drugs for a period of twenty years (Assaelt, 1992). The price of the drugs has nothing to do with their manufacturing costs but the protection allows for funds so that research can be carried out by pharmaceutical firms, cover lost time, development cost, and increase success rates (Baker, 2001; Grabowsky & Vernon, 1990; Tucker, 1984).

A generic medicine on the other hand means a prescription medicine based on an active substance that is out of patent and which is marketed under a different name from that of the original branded medicine (Giles, 2001). The generic medicine manufacturers play an important role in offering affordable medicines to patients after the expiry of the patent protection period (Henry & Lexchin, 2002). There is thus a symbiotic relationship between the innovative pharmaceutical firms patented drugs and the generic pharmaceutical industries, with the former introducing newer, improved medicines and the latter offering affordable versions of older medicines.

In Malaysia it is clear that the government plays an active role in the use of patented or generic drugs. The Ministry of Health has listed generic drugs in the essential drug list, educated the public, and encouraged doctors to use generic drugs as cost saving measures based on evidence from Sri Lanka and Costa Rica (Anonymous, 1998; Razak, 1998; UNCTAD, 1981; Yong, 1998). Nonetheless, doctors under the employ of the government still play a critical role in the prescription and use of either patented or generic drugs. It is these and also private practice doctors that pharmaceutical firms engage in 'detailing', which refers to personal visits to the doctor's offices with various forms of incentives (Ceniceros, 2003). This research aims to study perceptions of doctors under the employment of the Sarawak Government hospitals towards patented and generic drugs as well as to determine factors that affect prescribing decisions. The instrument used for this research is both qualitative (interview) and quantitative (questionnaire).

This paper addresses some important knowledge gaps by developing a scale of factors, to diagnose how doctors perceive patented and generic drugs, and more importantly, the factors that they consider when prescribing such drugs. The data is based on an initial interview of 15 doctors followed by questionnaires to 62 out of a population of 300 doctors under the employment of the Sarawak Government throughout Sarawak. The rest of the paper is organized as follows: first, discussion of the relevant literature is presented; then the methodology is discussed; findings presented; and finally the paper concludes with a discussion of academic and managerial implications and areas for future research. …