The Indian Medical Association on Monday urged the Union government and the National Medical Commission to defer the implementation of new guidelines that require doctors to only prescribe generic medicines to patients.

It said that the guidelines were akin to “running trains without tracks” and asserted that the move was ill-advised.

The National Medical Commission, the apex medical regulator, put in place the new prescription requirement as part of its guidelines for professional conduct by doctors of modern medicine. “Every RMP [registered medical practitioner] should prescribe drugs using generic names written legibly and prescribe drugs rationally, avoiding unnecessary medications and irrational fixed-dose combination tablets,” the guidelines stated.

The National Medical Commission said that the step was aimed at improving access to quality care, as generic medicines are on average 30% to 80% cheaper than branded ones, The Indian Express reported.

The Indian Medical Association, however, contended that the guidelines shift the decision-making power from medical practitioners to chemists. It said that the authorities should refrain from “cost-cutting irrespective of quality treatment”.

The association said the biggest impediment to generic drugs is the uncertainty about their quality. “The quality control in the nation being very weak, there’s practically no guarantee of the quality of drugs and prescribing drugs without assured quality would be detrimental to patient health,” it warned.

The Indian Medical Association said there should be a “fool proof system of quality assurance before switching over to generic drugs”.

Other doctors’ bodies also protested the National Medical Commission’s guidelines.

Delhi Medical Council chief Arun Gupta said that medical stores usually do not stock generic medicines as profit margins are narrow, according to The Indian Express.

“This means patients will have to go looking for these medicines, a branded version of which might cost just Rs 50,” Gupta said. “Second, if the generic version is not available, the responsibility of substitution is shifted to pharmacists.”

The Delhi Medical Council chief said this would only promote brands – whether good or bad – that have good profit margins.