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Cap all drugs' prices: Panel

A parliamentary panel has asked the government to impose price control on all medicines.

By PTI and Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 21.04.15
‘All medicines essential’

New Delhi, April 20: A parliamentary panel has asked the government to impose price control on all medicines.

Analysts say that just 12 per cent of the medicines sold nationwide are now under price caps.

In a report tabled in Parliament today, the standing committee on chemicals and fertilisers said all medicines, including life-saving drugs, are essential and should be available at affordable prices.

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, an agency under the chemicals and fertilisers ministry, has imposed price ceilings on 509 formulation packs, covering 348 drugs classified under a so-called National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM).

But health and pharmacological experts estimate that the total number of medicine formulations available in India runs into thousands, covering over 1,400 drugs.

"The committee was surprised to know that all medicines are not listed in the NLEM," the panel said. "The committee is of the view that all medicines are essential and (are) taken only when needed by (patients)."

It added: "The scope of price control needs to be enlarged to make all drugs available."

The panel's recommendation for full price control echoes long-standing demands from public health experts and patients' rights activists.

"This is exactly what we've been asking for," said Malini Aisola, public health analyst and member of the All India Drug Action Network. The NGO has been campaigning for an expanded list of drugs under price control.

The 509 formulations now covered by price control accounted for about 18 per cent of medicine sales in India about three years ago but now make up less than 12 per cent of domestic drug sales, she said.

The parliamentary panel, expressing concern at the large sums spent on drug imports, has recommended that the domestic bulk drug industry be given incentives and Indian firms discouraged from buying bulk pharmaceuticals from overseas.

It observed that Rs 17,944 crore had been spent in 2013-14 to import medicinal and pharmaceutical products.

"The committee is of the strong view that to realise the dream of 'Make in India' concept in pharmaceutical sector, the government should boost and incentivise domestic bulk drug industry and discourage Indian pharmaceutical firms from importing," it said.

The panel said it was dissatisfied with the department's explanation that imports were made on quality and economic considerations and not necessarily because the products were unavailable at home.

It added that sick public sector units needed to be revived to enhance their capacity of making bulk drugs and make the country self-reliant.

Besides, the panel said, it expected the department to speed up its formulation of a policy on the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients in India.