Drug information for the Indian consumer needs to be increased, made more accessible and presented in a consumer-friendly format, argues this paper produced by Centad in association with the Indian health ministry and WHO.

By Yamini Srivastava and K M Gopakumar

Centre for Trade and Development (Centad) in collaboration with CDSCO, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, and the World Health Organisation Country Office for India

SUMMARY

Consumer drug information includes all information directed at patients and consumers regarding drugs and treatments used by them with a view to enabling them to take informed decisions. According to this paper, people have the right to be provided knowledge about medications they are being advised to consume (to download the full paper in PDF format click here).

There are many actors involved in the dissemination of different types of information to consumers relating to drugs: government and quasi-government authorities, civil society and non-government organisations, patients associations, pharmaceutical associations, drug manufacturers associations, and societies involved in promoting rational drug use.

Current state of play

This paper examines the nature of information currently being disseminated to consumers. It identifies which actors are involved in dispensing such information and the type of information that each provides. It also identifies models and guidelines on what kind of information should ideally be provided, how it should be done, and how this can further the cause of helping consumers make informed choices. Finally, it examines the law and policy regimes applicable to drug information disseminated to consumers.

The main findings of the paper include:

  • The availability of consumer drug information in India is extremely low in terms of quantity. Information is not provided in a user-friendly manner in most cases, and rarely includes traditional medicines.
  • There is a particular lack of information relating to drug prices, and there is no single dedicated actor concentrating only on consumer drug information.
  • There is no coordination between the various actors providing consumer drug information, and no consistency of information being supplied. Information directed at consumers is largely aimed at creating awareness about preventive strategies; it does not provide technical medical details pertaining to drugs, nor does it provide practical information regarding usage and consumption of the drug. Most technical information with respect to drugs is directed at medical professionals, not consumers.
  • The current law and policy regime does not deal comprehensively with issues of consumer drug information.
  • There is no comprehensive single database of information containing technical information about drugs that has been approved by the government.

Recommendations

The paper makes the following recommendations:

  • For bigger packs of medicines, leaflets and printed material should be provided. This must be made compulsory for drug companies, and a team of pharmacologists, clinical professionals and consumers should review all drug-related information.
  • Disseminating detailed information on drugs to consumers in a simple, easy to understand manner, and not only in English but also in local languages.
  • Making information on the prices of drugs and comparisons between the prices of various branded and generic versions of the drug more readily available to consumers.
  • Developing a forum wherein the actors involved in disseminating information can meet and deliberate on common steps to be taken to take forward the movement for advocating rational drug use, particularly with regard to consumer drug information.
  • Encouraging consumers to be more proactive in seeking information.
  • The report also recommends a detailed study of advertisements, as they are a direct and predominant source of information for consumers.

November 2007