A little over a month after the Finance Ministry raised ‘some issues’ over the present form of the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy (NPPP), 2011, the Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Sharad Pawar is all set to take a decision on bringing 348 generic drugs under a price control regime, called the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM.)
Pharmaceutical companies are selling many branded products at hugely inflated prices, some by even 1,000 per cent. For example, six tablets of the antibiotic Augumentin, manufactured by Glaxo-Smith Klein, cost Rs 241 currently. Once the NPPP comes into effect, it will cost only Rs 114,a reduction of about 100 percent. Ten tablets of Taximo, manufactured by Alkin, priced at Rs 198, will cost about Rs 103, post NPPP. A draft report of the NPPP-2011 states that the annual turnover of medicines listed under NELM is Rs 29,000 crore. This amounts to about 60 per cent of the total domestic market, as per IMS-Health.
Currently, 74 drugs are subjected to price control. If the NPPP is cleared, pharmaceutical companies will have to sell medicines listed under the NLEM at a rate affordable to large sections of the population.
According to the draft policy, “formulation would be priced only by fixing the ceiling price.” It further states: “Manufacturers would be free to fix any price for their products equal to or below the ceiling price. The ceiling price would be fixed on the basis of dosage, such as per tablet, capsule, standard injection volume etc., and not on pack basis.”
However, there is a loophole in the draft policy. A clause states that the ceiling price will be revised annually, based on the wholesale price index for manufactured goods. This makes it possible for the pharma companies to revise prices from the first of April every year. A senior Health Ministry official, Delhi government, told the Express, “From the patients’ point of view, the NPPP-2011 will go a long way. Since cost of the medicines has gone up phenomenally in recent times, a certain check is needed. But at the same, the decision should be such so that the industry also survives.”
Incidentally, doctors have come under the scanner for accepting benefits from pharma companies in exchange of prescribing their medicines. LS Member Jyoti Mirdha, who is also part of the Parliamentary Committee on Health and Family Welfare, raised the issue early this year, when it was found that 15 Madhya Pradesh-based doctors toured England and Scotland for 8 days with their wives and relatives in March. The trip was sponsored by one Ahmedabad-based pharmaceutical company.
The parliamentary standing committee report of May 2012 notes: “Prescription of irrational and useless drugs by many of the doctors with ulterior motives is rampant. The Committee is, therefore, convinced that there is no other alternative but to include more essential and life-saving drugs under price regulation.”