Exploring pharmacists views, knowledge and perceptions regarding generic medicines in the Western Cape.
BACKROUND In 1996, South Africa adopted a National Drugs Policy. An important objective of this policy focused on promoting the use of generic medicines in the country to ensure that medicines are accessible to the majority of South Africans. Pharmacists play a vital role in influencing patients’ choice of medication, thus highlighting the importance of gaining all health professionals’ support for the quality and utilization of generic medicines. OBJECTIVES This study sought to assess and evaluate the perceptions, views, knowledge and willingness to recommend generic medicines by pharmacists that are located within the Western Cape, as well as to explore pharmacists’ perceptions towards the safety, quality, and efficacy of generic medicines. In addition, the study assessed pharmacists’ views on current policy with respect to substitution of generic medicines as well as to determine if these views vary in the different practice settings. Finally the study assessed pharmacists’ views on the pricing system of generics as well as their opinion on promotion of these medications. METHOD A cross-sectional online survey, which targeted 1730 pharmacists living in the Western Cape, was conducted, using SurveyMonkey, from 7 September to 7 October 2014. Data collected included participant demographics, qualification, experience, education, knowledge and perceptions of generic medication. Survey Monkey was used to produce graphical representations of the data and data was exported onto Microsoft excel in order to make analytical comparisons. RESULTS A total of 321 pharmacists responded to the questionnaire (a response rate of 18,6%). 82% of pharmacists stated there is no difference in safety between original brand and generic medicines. Majority of respondents (74%) believed that generic medicines are therapeutically equivalent to the original medicines. However, 39% of pharmacists stated that original medicines are of a better quality than their generic counterparts. A large number (more than 60%) of pharmacists reported concerns of bioequivalence as their main problem when switching to a generic medicine. CONCLUSION Majority of Pharmacists in the Western Cape had a positive outlook on generic medication and supported and encouraged its use. Concerns were raised however, regarding quality, safety, and effectiveness of generic medicines as well as doubts in the reliability of certain generic manufacturing companies. Pharmacists’ opinions could negatively impact generic usage in South Africa, therefore continuing education and awareness campaigns should be implemented in order to re-confirm pharmacists’ knowledge of generic medicines being bioequivalent and of equal quality to branded medicines. Furthermore, pharmacists should be encouraged to report Adverse Drug Reactions in order to resolve any quality issues.