This post is by Roger Bate, Adjunct Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Our third SearchingForSafety Working Paper is published today, analyzing surveys of attitudes on medicine quality among pharmacists and their customers in Delhi. Initially conducted in 2008, we repeated a set of surveys this year and found some interesting differences.
Notably, fewer of the pharmacy staff were willing to speak to our surveyors and insisted we speak with the pharmacist himself. Pharmacists also appeared far more knowledgeable about the terms; reporting that they had not been offered “spurious” products. They also reported being comfortable providing “cheap medicines”, and didn't care, as one put it, “if the medicines were deceptively similar to a well known [trademarked western] product”.
It doesn't appear that Indian pharmacists are directly aware of the international fights on trademarks, but rather believe that “western interests” are out to get them. Indian pharmacists opinions appear to have become both more nationalistic and certain since 2008, and could be summed up this way – our products are safe, only westerners claim we sell poor quality medicines, and they do that to damage our industry because we sell safe, cheap medicines that outcompete them.
Surveys were also conducted of customers leaving pharmacies, who appeared to have purchased medicines, in an effort to understand their knowledge about medicine problems in India. We suspected that Indian consumers would underestimate the dangers of low quality medicines.
We found that the vast majority of customers had even stronger views about counterfeit medicines than pharmacists. When asked whether they were concerned they might have just bought counterfeit or substandard medicines, over 90% said they were not. Most of them thought such medicines would be cheaper and probably just as effective, especially the counterfeit medicines, since many had similar opinions to one customer who stated that “brands just mean higher prices, and I don’t want to give my money to corporates [big business]”.