NEW DELHI: Slamming the government for failing to act in a "professional" manner, a parliamentary committee has said that there was “gross negligence” and a “lackadaisical attitude” on the part of the Department of Pharmaceuticals when it came to regulating the prices of patented drugs in the country.
The Parliamentary Committee on Government Assurances has found that the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers comprehensively failed to act in a professional manner in their efforts to fix or regulate the prices of patented drugs and medicines.
The ministry which had formed a panel way back in 2007 to look into a price regulatory mechanism for patented drugs did not pursue the matter and a report was submitted only after five years in 2012.
“It is highly questionable as to why the ministry allowed that panel to submit its report in the matter after five years in 2012 that too without unanimity if not for gross negligence and lackadaisical attitude or vested interest,” the committee on assurances asked. “Evidently the ministry lacked will in this regard and did not pursue the matter in the right earnest”.
The Committee of Assurances also noticed that the ministry failed to take a firm decision on the issue even after the first committee gave its report and instead again set up an inter-ministerial committee of joint secretaries in 2013 to look into the issues and suggest ways and means to fix the prices of patented drugs in the country.
It criticized the ministry for such gross negligence and abdication of responsibility with the concomitant failure to play a key role in the entire episode.
The committee have now been informed that the inter-ministerial committee of Joint Secretaries has since completed consultation with the stakeholders and is now finalizing its report after more than two and a half years, which is also not a good sign of professionalism and ought to have happened much before.
The committee would like the ministry to take proactive steps to expedite proper follow action to finalize the requisite pricing mechanism of patented drugs at the earliest and in the best interest of the country so that these medicines are made available to the common people at the most affordable rates.
Drugs available in India can be classified into three categories—generic, branded and patented. While purely generic drugs have a market of just Rs. 8,000 crore, patented drugs have just Rs. 15,000 crore of the market.