THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state government will not intervene in the exorbitant pricing of a breast cancer drug at the Regional Cancer Centre here. Instead, the Drugs Controller will probe the discounted sale of drugs online.
In reply to a submission by V D Satheesan MLA in the Assembly on Tuesday, Health Minister K K Shailaja chose to go by the claim of the manufacturer of Canmab 440 mg injection that it has not sold the drug for less than Rs 35,000 anywhere in the country.
Satheesan’s submission was based on an Express report that the state-owned RCC sells one unit of the injection for Rs 42,500 while it was available for half the price on online market place IndiaMart and at IHDB, a medical store attached to government-run SAT Hospital on the same campus. While the online price starts from Rs 21,000, the IHDB price is Rs 20,790.
The MRP of the drug is Rs 62,043. Canmab 440 mg injection, the brand name of Trastuzumab, is used for treating breast cancer and sometimes for intestinal cancer. A patient would require 15-20 units during a three-month course of treatment. Shailaja said RCC purchases Canmab 440 mg for Rs 35,784 and sells it at Rs 42,500, including service charge and tax. It is purchased through e-tender in adherence to the government’s store purchase manual.
“It is learnt drug manufacturers give seasonal offers to clear their stock. Cancer drugs are displayed at different rates on IndiaMart to lure customers. Pharma distributors too sell drugs at different rates,” she said. She admitted SAT Hospital, which runs IHDB, buys the drug at lower prices. “But RCC and Karunya Pharmacy cannot buy drugs as per those procedures,” she said. Shailaja said the drugs controller has been asked to conduct a detailed probe into the discounted drug sales online. The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority will also be asked to look into the issue, she said.
Satheesan told Express the minister’s arguments are childish and contradictory. “The government is shying away from its responsibility to provide drugs at lower prices to cancer patients,” he said.