NEW DELHI: Prices of over 800 drugs under the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM), including paracetamol, common antibiotics like azithromycin, doxycycline and medications for hypertension, diabetes and COVID-19 will increase by 10.7 per cent starting Friday.
Activists slammed the move saying that it would hit the pockets of the poor and middle-class and make the essential medicines unaffordable. The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority of India (NPPA), India's apex drug pricing regulator, announced last week a 10.7 per cent change in the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) for the calendar year 2021 over the same period in 2020. The steep hike would also mean the prices of a few medical devices such as coronary stents and knee implants would go up.
Slamming the move, Dr Chinu Srinivasan of All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN), an NGO which works to increase access to and improve the rational use of essential medicines, said the Central government had done it to satisfy the pharma industry."Government needs to relook into the price-control policy and make it more realistic so that consumers and manufacturers benefit," he told The New Indian Express.
These scheduled medicines constitute about 18 per cent of the total domestic pharma retail market, valued around Rs 1.5 trillion. Last year, the NPPA, which fixed the ceiling price of scheduled medicines as per the Drugs (Price Control) Order (DPCO) 2013, had raised the prices by nearly 5 per cent.
Dr Gopal Dabade of AIDAN said this steep hike would hit the "poor and the middle-class" more. "The out-of-pocket expenses are huge, which is contributed by the drug prices. It's unfortunate that essential drug prices have been increased. It will make a lot of poor people unable to access essential medicines, more so in tribal areas and other remote areas," he added.
"If a patient, who is a senior citizen, has diabetes and hypertension and his wife has the same disease, and if he gets a pension of Rs 12,000, then he is spending Rs 4,000-5,000 on medicines only. Now, the government has further hiked the price. There is no justification," he added.
Key medicines to become expensive
Paracetamol, common antibiotics like azithromycin, doxycycline, and medications for hypertension, diabetes and COVID-19