Chemists oppose govt proposal on drug pricing

Chemists oppose govt proposal on drug pricing

The All-India Chemists and Distributors Federation has questioned the government’s draft proposal to price essential medicines according to top brands.

It has asked for cost-based pricing.

Following a Supreme Court directive, the government has prepared a proposal to regulate price of drugs that figure in the national list of essential medicines, which contains 72 drugs.

According to a study by the federation, there is no logic in the proposal as fixing a price as per the weighted average of three top selling brands will “force consumers to pay a higher price”.

The federation stated that demand is created on the basis of prescriptions and advice by doctors, who invariably recommend costlier brands.

The federation “advocates pricing on universally accepted principles of cost-based pricing.”

Taking examples from a study by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, a federation spokesperson said the maximum difference in prices can be seen among different brands of breast cancer medicine ‘letrozole’.

“While a 10-tablet strip of letrozole (2.5 mg) by Swiss drugmaker Novartis costs Rs 1,986, the same strip made by Hyderabad-based Hetero has a price tag of Rs 60,” a federation member said.

Similarly, amlodipin (5 mg) by Pfizer costs Rs 8.33, while the same manufactured by Mankind costs Re 0.99.

The cheaper ones in both cases are generic medicines — drugs without patent.

However, the federation welcomed a clause in the proposal that keeps generic medicines out of the ambit of price regulation, so that cheap medicines are still available in the market. The federation also wants to remove excise duty on drugs.

“Excise duty exemption is offered in four states — Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Manipur — which produce nearly 50 per cent of all drugs in India.

Medicines will be cheaper by five per cent if excise duty is abolished completely on drugs everywhere,” said a federation spokesperson.

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