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Taiwan's drug shortage fears fueled by preference for branded medicines

Health minister says shortage fears caused by misconception that brand-name drugs are superior

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A New Taipei pharmacy is pictured in 2022. (CNA photo)

A New Taipei pharmacy is pictured in 2022. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s health minister addressed media reports of an impending prescription drug shortage on Monday (Jan. 22) and said as long as the public is prepared to consume generic versions of medicines, there is no need to worry about a shortage.

Health Minister Hsueh Jui-yuan (薛瑞元) said that most domestic drug shortages are caused by the public insisting on a certain brand of a given drug, per UDN. He said he hopes the public does not believe in "brand myths."

He said that in Taiwan, only nine drugs are without a domestically produced substitute, in contrast to the nearly 600 drugs that have been reported to be in danger of running out. Of those nine medications, Hsieh said that only one is still being sought to avoid a shortage.

Hsueh said that both doctors and patients in Taiwan continue to mistakenly believe brand-name drugs are superior to generic and domestically produced alternatives.

He said there may be shortages of brand-name drugs due to shipping issues caused by conflict in the Middle East, but generic alternatives will not run out.

An example of a drug commonly known by its brand rather than generic name is paracetamol. The drug sold over the counter as “Tylenol” or “Panadol” contains paracetamol as its only ingredient.

“There should be no brand loyalty issues when it comes to drugs,” Hsieh said. He said that as long as a drug is curative, it is a good drug, and it makes no difference if the drug is produced in Taiwan or elsewhere.

Taiwan's drug shortage fears fueled by preference for branded medicines
Hsueh Jui-yuan speaks to reporters in 2023. (CNA photo)