Parliamentary panel recommends price cap for all drugs

Money spent in importing medicines a big concern for government

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Wednesday 22 April 2015

Photo: Martin Cathrae/Flickr

All drugs sold in the country should be placed under a pricing cap, said parliamentary panel in its report tabled on Monday.

The committee has also said that all drugs, including the life savings, are important and should, therefore be brought under price control.

"The Committee was surprised to know that all medicines are not listed in the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM). The committee is of the view that all medicines are essential and is taken only when it is needed by the patient,” said the report. The standing committee on chemicals and fertilizers also said that all medicines should be available at affordable prices.

At present, total 509 formulations covering 348 drugs come under the list of National List of Essential Medicine (NLEM). This means that the prices of these drugs are capped by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA). However, it is believed that these formulations are just 12 per cent of the total medicines sold in the country.

As per the estimates by several experts, total number of medicine formulations available is in thousands.
The committee emphasised, "The scope of price control needs to be enlarged to make all drugs available."

It also highlighted the issue of large sum of money spend on importing pharmaceutical products, the committee suggested several ways including incentivising domestic bulk drug industry and also other discouraging means to importer.  As per the committee, Rs 17,944 crore was spent in 2013-14 to import medicinal and pharmaceutical products.

The committee is not satisfied with the explanation that the department has given for increasing import of medicines. The department cited better quality products and not shortage as a reason behind the imports.
The committee also suggested Central government to revive public sector units which have the capacity to manufacture drugs in bulk. It also asked department to accelerate the policy formulation for production of active pharmaceutical ingredients in India.

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