The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Drug price sinks in: sham with 1-paisa cut

New Delhi, Nov. 1: Most consumers will not benefit from the price cuts on select medicines announced by the government yesterday because they cover only a tiny fraction of drugs prescribed in India, experts have said.

The ministry of chemicals and fertilisers had yesterday released a list of 886 formulations whose prices have been reduced voluntarily by 11 companies. The cuts range from 0.26 to 74 per cent.

But trade and drug experts said the list smacks of “tokenism” and that it is unlikely to benefit most consumers. One company has reduced the cost of an injection — prochlorperazine — used to prevent vomiting from Rs 4.99 to Rs 4.98 — a 1-paisa cut.

“It’s ludicrous. Typically, only one injection is needed for treatment. Consumers will probably have to search the nation for the retail chemist who returns 2 paise after a sale,” said Chandra Gulhati, editor of the journal Monthly Index of Medical Specialities.

“Nearly 90 per cent of the drugs on the list are not prescribed by doctors,” Gulhati added.

Gulhati said none of the 11 companies have cut the prices on any of their own top 10 products.

“If the government is serious about helping consumers, it should consider controlling prices of the top 300 essential drugs,” said Sourirajan Srinivasan of Low Cost Standard Therapeutics.

A ministry of chemicals and fertilisers official said the 886 formulations account for only Rs 1,500 crore of an estimated Rs 30,000-crore domestic drug market.

But another official insisted that consumers would benefit. “We want more doctors to prescribe these drugs, and we want people to insist that they get low-cost medicines,” he said.

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