State complacent over setting up drug price monitoring

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Lack of drug Price Monitoring and Research Unit (PMRU) in Karnataka is hurting the public, who could not bring those selling medicines and devices at inflated prices to books.

It has been four years since the guidelines to set up a price monitoring regime was released. This year, it was revised and renamed. But the state drug controller seems blissfully unaware of the non-existent system.

Despite having 38,000 medical shops, Karnataka has a mere 27 medical inspectors who are trusted with licensing the shops and monitoring their quality. With such inadequate numbers, the state drug controller admits inspecting the medical stores even once a year is a tall order.

The neighbouring Kerala had 40 drug inspectors in January when it set up the PMRU, despite being home to less than 3% of the country’s population (Karnataka has more than 3% population).

Karnataka’s drug control department could have received help if it had registered a Price Monitoring and Research Unit (PMRU) as a society as per the guidelines of the National Pharmaceutical and Pricing Authority (NPPA), India’s drug price watchdog.

This would have qualified the department to receive grants to recruit and pay salaries of a dedicated team to monitor price violations made of a project coordinator, three field investigators and three data entry operators.

State drug controller BT Khanapure told DH, “This requires funds and staff that we do not have. If the government gives us funds and asks us to form a unit, we will.”

Ironically, the state bears the onus to express the desire to set up the unit, apply for grants and register it as a society.

So far, ten Indian states have registered PMRUs -Kerala, Odisha, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Nagaland, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

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