Generic drugs in the Philippines. Are they safe? Are they really affordable? Are there better options? Our impression is that the Philippine pharmaceutical industry manufactures few drugs. Mostly it buys raw ingredients, or semi-finished products, repackages and markets them. The vast majority of drug manufacturing for Asia (and the rest of the world) is in India and China. Increasingly U.S. pharmaceutical firms are farming-out their drug manufacturing to developing countries, especially India. Even the biggest, most established Indian drug makers have had quality control problems. If they market in the U.S., their plants are to be inspected by the FDA. The FDA found problems at Dr. Reddy, which is now owned by a Japanese drug company. It’s probably the cream of the crop. Usually you have no idea where the generic drug in a Philippine pharmacy actually comes from. I have never seen any generic drugs from the big established generic firms such as Teva or Mylan.
Filipino physicians are themselves suspicious of generic drugs in the Philippines. A survey of physicians showed that 70% are opposed to the 1988 generic drugs act. Why? A majority of these physicians believe that the Philippine Bureau of Food and Drugs is not capable of ensuring the quality of the generic drugs. Filipinos also tend to buy brand name drugs. It’s hard to know if these suspicions are justified. Pharmaceutical sales reps overrun the offices of Philippine doctors, just as they do in the U.S. Most of them are articulate, well groomed and attractive. It would be surprising if they did not encourage physicians to be suspicious of the generics which are a threat to their employers and their own jobs. This is a replay of what happened in the U.S. in the early days of generics.
In our experience, Philippine physicians mostly seem uninterested in the affordability of the drugs they prescribe. Most specify expensive brand-name drugs. We usually ask physicians about the availability of generics. Sometimes they seem surprised and disappointed with their patient that they would stoop to use generics. The the drug company brain washing seems to work!
We have used Philippine generics for years. We stick to buying them at Mercury or another reputable pharmacy such as Rose or Watson’s. Usually we buy United Labs or Pharex products. These are the two biggest generic drug makers in the Philippines. The drugs work as they should. We have had no problems. But, Philippine generics are not inexpensive by world standards. For example, Bob takes the drug Finasteride each day and will have to for the remainder of his life. A generic version costs $1.08 (USD) per pill at Mercury. The same tablet from a big Indian pharmaceutical company (Cipla) costs $.40. Pfizer Atorvastatin (Lipitor – made in Turkey) 40mg costs $1.17 at Mercury. The Cipla product costs $.68 (plus postage) at https://www.alldaychemist.com.
So, if they can afford it, expats and well-to-do Filipinos can stick with overpriced brand name drugs at very high prices. We tend to shop at Mercury Drug or Watson (owned by a big Hong Kong corporation) in the hope that they might exercise some judgment over the generics they sell. I read that a Mercury rep suggests that their generics are suitable for the middle classes — that is those who can’t afford brand name drugs but who don’t feel comfortable with ordinary generics.
Here’s an article giving some insight into the Philippine generic drugs market as well as that for some SE Asia neighbors.