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Drug policy awaits court tonic

New Delhi, Sept. 4: The government has been forced to delay the announcement of the new pharmaceutical policy with the Supreme Court scheduled to hear tomorrow a crucial plea by NGOs that are seeking price controls on a wide range of life saving drugs.

Vinay Kohli, secretary, department of chemicals and fertilisers, said the government had been forced to put off the announcement of the new policy until the apex court finished hearing the case.

The imbroglio began with a public interest litigation (PIL) filed in Karnataka High Court demanding that the new Drug Price Control Order (DPCO) list should be in tune with the policy. It was feared that the new DPCO would take a number of life-saving drugs out of the ambit of price control, which would be detrimental to the interests of the poor people.

Karnataka High Court gave a stay order on the implementation of the new policy against which the government moved the Supreme Court.

When life saving drugs became the focal point of the entire debate, the Supreme Court had asked government to submit a revised list of life saving drugs.

In July, the government informed the Supreme Court that 75 new medicines have been added to the essential drugs list after reviewing the Pharmaceutical Policy, 2002.

“We have given the revised list of life-saving drugs. Only after some final court order comes can we know whether the pharmaceutical policy can be implemented in its present form or whether it needs some change,” said Kohli.

The Pharmaceutical Policy 2002, as it stands after various amendments, states that only those drugs will come under price control or DPCO whose turnover is at least Rs 25 crore with a market share of more than 50 per cent or those with a turnover between Rs 10-25 crore but with a market share of 90 per cent. However, the public interest litigation has challenged the criteria for imposing price controls on life-saving drugs.

The pharma policy, or at least the portion which deals with new criteria for determining which drugs will attract price control, may need to be changed depending on the Supreme Court’s ruling on the PIL.

“The thrust of the pharma policy was to create a competitive environment enabling the drug industry to grow faster,” said Kohli.

Kohli added that even those drugs that do not come under the DPCO are open to governmental interference.

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