Madison General Insurance has directed doctors to only prescribe generic medicines for its customers, kicking up a storm after medics vowed to defy the order.
Doctors Monday accused the insurer of attempting to curtail their autonomy.
The doctors’ union said Madison or any other insurance company does not have the right to limit them to the type of drug they prescribe to patients.
Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists' Union (KMPDU) secretary-general Ouma Oluga advised doctors to ignore the directive.
“If an insurance company refuses such treatment opting for an alternative, then it is the patient to deal with their payer. It must not be the doctor.
"Doctors are better off ignoring anything that interferes with the relationship between the treatment prescribed and the patient. That is my advisory to doctors. Remain autonomous,” he said in an interview.
Madison, in a memo dated January 3, directed all its service providers to only prescribe generic drugs for their customers beginning January 7.
“Attending doctors are advised to prescribe generic medication as opposed to branded medication. All dispensing chemists and pharmacies are also advised to only dispense generic medication,” said Madison in the directive signed by John Muhindi, assistant general manager for the healthcare department.
Dr Oluga, however, said doctors should only follow scientifically proven guidelines as appropriate treatment for their patients.
A Madison General Insurance spokesperson said the group would release a formal response on queries arising from its directive later.
Kenya Medical Association (KMA) member Andrew Were said that the generic drugs may be perceived to be the same as the brand name drugs, but they do have the same chemical length.
He said some level of illness requires only the original drugs and that can only be determined by the doctor not the insurer.
“A patient may be suffering from an infection and as a doctor I feel like the generic drug offered is not working and so I need to have the option of prescribing the original drug. My obligation is to the patient not the insurer,” he said.
Dr Were said that while the insurer is doing this to cut costs and make healthcare affordable as written in their statement, the affordability cannot be compromised over quality of healthcare.
“There is a delicate balance and as much as we push for cheaper drugs the government should look to measures such as taxation of imported drugs, which would make all drugs affordable,” he said.
Thuranira Kaugiria, the KMPDU secretary- general for Nairobi, said Madison has also failed to mention what happens when medication does not come in generic form, which could leave their clients stranded.