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Pill for poor in draft drug policy

Mumbai, July 1: The National Pharmaceutical Policy will work to make drugs available to the poor, particularly families living below the poverty line.

Ram Vilas Paswan, Union minister for chemicals and fertilisers, today unveiled the draft policy, which also proposes to include 354 specified drugs in addition to the existing 74 under the list of essential medicines and bring them under price control.

Paswan revealed details of the draft policy at a meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee.

Reiterating the government's commitment to provide affordable medicines as charted out in its common minimum programme, Paswan said drug prices would be fixed for all drugs in the cost plus price control system based on MAPE or the maximum allowable post-manufacturing expense. MAPE includes all costs incurred by the manufacturer from the stage of ex-factory cost to retailing and includes trade margin too.

The minister added that the maximum retail price of drugs would be inclusive of all taxes as in the case of all packaged commodities. He, however, added that the government would provide some exemptions to certain drugs ' those developed in India through product and process patent ' from price control for five years.

“This will boost R&D in India,” the minister said. Vaccines and biological drugs, and drugs for sale to hospitals only would also be exempted from the price control. Paswan said in order to facilitate better monitoring, the policy also proposed re-structuring and strengthening of national pharmaceutical pricing authority (NPPA).

He said enactment of the drugs price management and distribution act has been proposed for effective regulation of drug prices and for handling health emergencies.

The draft policy, along with the cabinet note, has been circulated to different departments for comments and it would be put up before the cabinet after the comments come in, an official statement said.

Industry circles said the department of chemicals and fertiliser will have to present the policy to 21 government departments. These include the ministry of commerce and the Planning Commission. The policy may be modified according to the suggestions by these departments. It will subsequently be placed before the cabinet for approval.

The domestic pharma industry has already expressed its apprehensions about the proposed policy, pointing out that Paswan's move to bring most drugs under price control would result in a drop in production as there would be no business sense in producing them.

“It will also encourage counterfeit and spurious drugs,” an observer added.

To provide incentive to research and development in the sector, the policy also proposed an additional 50 per cent MAPE for R&D intensive companies that fulfil the government's standards.

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