Panel for control of drug prices

Panel for control of drug prices

Nexus between docs and pharma firms should end

Government control over prices of close to 900 drugs sold in the country is the only way to get a handle on spiraling drug price, adversely impacting millions of Indians, a Group of Minister (GoM) on drug prices said on Friday.

Deposing before the GoM on pharmaceutical price headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Congress Lok Sabha member Jyoti Mirdha and voluntary outfit All India Drug Action Network demanded price control from the government on all drugs and not merely on few hundreds of molecules as suggested by the National Pharmaceutical Price Policy, 2011.

“Keeping 348 drugs out of nearly 900 molecule is inadequate as it leaves doors wide open to shift from regulated to unregulated drugs. Except for bringing all drugs under price regulation there appears to be no effective way to keep prices and profits and reasonable level,” Mirdha said.

Same sentiments were echoed by health activist Mira Shiva who suggested price controlled drug list needed to go beyond 348 essential medicines to avoid shifting to non-regulated drugs.

Moreover, Shiva advocated for measures to discourage production of irrational drugs and combinations review the list of essential medicines to check if all the medicines were under price control. “All irrational combinations and non-essential drugs must be phased out within 2 years,” she said.

The GoM was convened for receiving feedback on the controversial pharmaceutical policy and to  suggest  what could be an acceptable programme to control the spiraling prices of medicines.

Mirdha pointed out that on medical care, Indians spend 82.7 per cent of medical expense from their pocket, which is the fourth highest in the world after Myanmar, Guinea and Afghanistan. The maximum expense – 40 to 70 per cent of any treatment – is spent on drugs, which is increasing due to patents coming in force.

Free market economies like France, UK, Canada and Australia too regulate drug prices, the MP said demanding government control on both imported and locally produced medicines. “Data proves that huge profits are being made by drug companies mainly due to patients’ total dependence on doctors who are obliged to and induced by pharmaceutical manufacturers to prescribe expensive brands.

Pharmaceutical business is lucrative business,” Mirdha said, highlighting on the needs to curb unethical promotional practice.

Citing examples, the Lok Sabha MP said in April 2007, one company spent Rs 10.5 crore to fly 1,300 doctors with spouses to a holiday resort in Bali for 5 nights to participate in a 2-hour “clinical conference” and this was not a solitary case. In the poorly regulated drug market, since 2003, the government issued 1,277 registration certificates to import finished formulations, many of which are monopoly patented drugs.

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