COIMBATORE:The Central government’s decision to allow pharmaceutical companies to increase prices of more than 500 essential drugs has been strongly criticised by the public as well as the medical fraternity.
The increase in prices of medicines used in the treatment of chronic diseases like diabetes, arthritis, cancer and hepatitis will affect not only the poor, but also the middle class, said Dr Ravishankar, district president, Tamil Nadu Government Doctors’ Association.
Apart from hikes that are announced, manufacturers also raise prices of many essential drugs by 10-20 paise which mostly go unnoticed, he added.
India has the world’s largest number of diabetic and hypertension patients and if essential drugs are not made available at affordable cost, most of them will not be able to continue the treatment properly. They might even go for cheaper, substandard alternatives, said Dr V Shanmugasundaram, president of the Indian Medical Association’s Coimbatore branch.
Instead of fixing drug prices based on the production cost, the Centre has based them on the market sales, which favours pharmaceutical companies, said Dr G R Ravindranath of Doctors’ Association for Social Equality (DASE).
In September last year, it had scrapped ceilings set by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Agency (NPPA) for 108 drugs used in treating diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Now, it has adopted a wrong price fixing policy, he added.
Justifying the decision, drug manufacturers say that the rise in the cost of imported raw materials, electricity and transport and the shortage of BPharm graduates has led to high production costs.
In 2012, the UPA government had added 365 drugs to the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM). As manufacturers were not allowed to sell them above prices fixed by the government, they suffered great losses, said P Elango, general secretary, Tamil Nadu Pharmaceutical Distributors Association.
The annual turnover of many manufacturers fell by up to 80 percent as they were heavily dependent on the drugs listed under NLEM for profit. A few of them decided to bring down production. To avoid shortage of essential drugs, the BJP government invited NPPA, All India Traders Association and All India Chemists Association for a joint-committee review and took this decision. This hike will not affect the public at large, he claimed.