Efficient drugs that treat stomach hyperacidity, allergic symptoms, inflammation, antibiotics and supplements such as malunggay, multivitamins with iron, psyllium fiber, collagen and glutathione can all be had at the lowest affordable price.
Watsons has launched its second wave of generic drugs, Watsons Generics, tailored to fit the needs of different market segments. The ferrous sulfate plus folic capsule for anemia costs P1—or 90 percent cheaper than the branded ones. The skin-lightening glutathione costs P38—or 21 percent cheaper than the popular ones.
Generic drugs are popular in emerging countries such as the Philippines since majority of the population pays out of pocket.
At Watsons, loperamide for diarrhea is 49 percent cheaper at P4.25. Cetirizine for flu and colds is 89 percent cheaper at P3.
Danilo Chiong, Watsons health trading director, explains that there are different tiers of drugs in various price points. People will pay top peso for brand-name drugs because the pharmaceutical companies have invested heavily in research, development and marketing.
Then again, these companies give up their exclusive rights once their patents expire. This enables other drug manufacturers to produce generic drugs and sell them at low cost, but high in volume.
In some markets concerned about fake or low-quality drugs, branded generics have emerged. They bear the name of a reputable drug company as a sign of dependability and quality. Although branded generics are considerably cheaper than the innovator drugs because they are off-patent, consumers still pay a little more.
These pharmaceuticals use their commercial distribution network and marketing savvy to sell higher-priced generics.
Unibrand generics such as Watsons Generics, Ritemed and TGP (The Generics Pharmacy) have made healthcare more reachable to Filipinos because of their low cost. “Studies have been done, and these drugs have been on the market for decades,” says Chiong.
Without the initial startup costs of production and as more companies make these drugs, the competition can further lower the prices. Yet generics are required by law to maintain the same efficacy as their brand-name counterparts.
Multi-step quality check
Sai Pascual, Watsons health trading manager, explains that for quality control, Asean countries undertake a multi-step quality check that includes selection of suppliers, making the medicines in facilities with the certification of Good Manufacturing Practice, external audit, post-market research, inspection and delivery.
Chiong adds that the medicines under Watsons Generics undergo the bioequivalence test. The active ingredients and dosage of the generic drugs must produce the same effect as the innovator drug. Once the drugs pass the test, they are enlisted with the Philippine Food and Drug Administration.
On the selection of Watsons Generics, Pascual explains that the company studies the IMS Health—or the “integrated market research” that contains information on the drugs sold locally and worldwide. Watsons selects the top 200 most prescribed drugs.
In 2012, the pharmacy chain introduced generic or no-name medicines that addressed the common health problems in the Philippines: Simvastatin controls cholesterol buildup; Metoprolol, Amlodipine and Losartan prevent high blood pressure and hypertension; and Metformin is for diabetics.
Costing 80 percent less than the branded drugs, they came in compliance packs so that the users would consume the medicines according to the prescribed cycles.
Plans are afoot to introduce over-the-counter medicines, expectorants, health supplements and a beauty pill to combat melasma.
“We provide quality assurance,” says senior marketing manager Karen Fabres. “Watsons has been in the pharmacy business for 170 years and we have been rated as the No. 1 pharmacy brand in Asia for six years.”
She cites that Watsons pharmacists can make time to answer customers’ questions. “We don’t just sell products. We can provide counseling and even free blood pressure check with no purchase required. Our pharmacists are exposed to continuous learning as we update them with trends.”