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Bitter price pill for drug lobby

New Delhi, Jan. 13: The chemicals and fertilisers ministry is planning to bring back drug price under control by restoring powers of the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA).

“We are in the process of restoring para 10 (B) of the drug price control order, which would give the NPPA powers to autonomously control prices of drugs again,” chemicals and fertilisers minister Ram Vilas Paswan said today.

According to Paswan, the ministry will issue an order next week enabling the NPPA to check drug prices in cases of extreme fluctuations or in the general interest of the public and consumer.

The minister accused pharmaceuticals majors of creating obstacles to stop the new pharma policy from getting the cabinet’s approval, a move which could have lowered prices of essential drugs.

“We had made the cabinet note based on the common minimum programme of the UPA government and the Supreme Court order to bring all essential drugs under price control ... But the industry lobby misled the MPs and ministers,” Paswan said.

He, however, made it clear that the government would not yield to any “lobby” and was committed to the interest of consumers.

Asked whether the government would cut sops and benefits to industry, the minister categorically said: “No. We will not take any step against the industry that restricts its growth.”

The new pharma policy, which was placed before the cabinet last Thursday, has been referred to a group of ministers (GoM) following staunch opposition from the industry.

Paswan, however, denied that the move to bring drug prices under control was linked to the delay in the new pharmaceutical policy.

“As a government we need to keep the interest of the consumers and general public at large,” he said.

NPPA’s power to control drug prices under the para 10 (B) of the Drug Price Control Order were removed during the NDA regime.

The minister said the details of the new powers to be vested in the NPPA were being finalised.

PCPIR land

The government today made it clear that the purchase of land for the proposed petroleum chemical and petrochemical investment regions (PCPIR) would be an exclusive industry-farmer affair.

“In view of the controversy on land acquisition, the Centre would direct state governments not to work as middlemen in acquiring land for industry in the proposed PCPIR,” Paswan said.

The government is considering setting up three PCPIRs in the country. Haldia, Vizag and Hazira have been identified as suitable locations because of their proximity to port facilities, Paswan said.

State governments will have a role in only promoting the PCPIR in their respective territories, he added.

Fertiliser subsidy

Paswan said the government would launch an on-line monitoring for the distribution of fertilisers by companies to states.

Though the subsidy payment will be made on sales quantity, data regarding dispatch quantities will be captured by the software modules, he added.

The minister also said the government would spend Rs 440 crore to revive Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Limited.

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