Many drug stores, upon request, give 5% discount so as to retain the client, but mostly they do not give this reduction voluntarily
National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, a Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilisers sponsored organisation, was formed on 29 August 1997. It has been given powers to implement and enforce the Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO) 1995/2013.
A visit to their web site is of interest. It shows that NPPA advises the Government on matters of drug policies and prices. NPPA is "constantly endeavouring for abundant availability of affordable medicines for all". The margins allowed for a wholesaler and a retailer, officially, varies between 10% and 20%. Branded medications, for the same "disease" could be high and not controlled. These margins are for "decontrolled" formulations.
According to the available information, prices are capped at an average of all medicines in a segment having more than one percent market share; for all other drugs, companies (drug manufacturers) are FREE to decide the pricing!
It may be recalled that on 10th July NPPA issued a notification capping prices of 108 anti-diabetic and cardiovascular drugs, on the basis of guidelines issued in May, after finding the market prices of some brands varied widely.
The government, in a rather sudden move, last month withdrew the power of the drug regulator, NPPA, to cap prices of non-essential drugs. Perhaps, this was done to appease the US drug makers who have been taking up the issue of intellectual property rights (for sometime) and this matter has been a source of bitterness or has acted as a stumbling block in our trade relations with that country. It is not clear if this matter was raised at all during the recent visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
But, in the meantime, the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA) and the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) went to the court against the NPPA's move, in July.
According to the press reports, OPPI has moved the court challenging the notification and seeking an order preventing the government from taking any further steps in this matter.
As a sequel, the Delhi High Court has asked the NPPA to show the manner in which it is exercising its power to cap prices of non-scheduled drugs, "in view of the recent withdrawal of the guidelines issued for this purpose". And the High Court has directed NPPA to file an affidavit indicating framework within which prices of non-scheduled drugs are now sought to sustain in the absence of guidelines".
It will be therefore in the interest of the public to await the final outcome on this issue, in the next few months. In the meantime, there are related issues that could be discussed and debated. Until this matter is resolved, it is presumed, status quo will continue on prices?
There are other issues that can be thought about, in the meanwhile.
First is the issue of "essential drugs". As long as a medical practitioner diagnose a sick person and prescribes some medication for use by the patient, should we not consider that becomes "essential" for the welfare of the sick person? With the prescribed medicine, the "sick" may return to health! So, for him/her, the "medicine" prescribed is "essential"!
One can understand the difference between a "lifesaving drug" and a simple headache!
Second, most corporate bodies today have extended medical facilities to the staff, and in many cases, medical cover includes the whole family. Either the company concerned from their own pharmacy gives the medicines free or the same made available at a "staff" rate. However, sadly, this benefit comes to a dead stop, once the person "retires" from active service. It is possible that some well to do organisations, which truly care for their staff welfare, as a Corporate Social Responsibility, extend this till the end, and more often than not, offer employment to the son/daughter in the organisation.
The trouble is such organisations are few and far between. A "retired" person becomes a family liability, not bearing to think that he/she was the bread earner, until the last day in office. It is a pity we do not have old people's home with all facilities like many other countries.
The third refers to a whole lot of people, like our farmers, the backbone of India's agricultural might, who have nothing to bank upon, as they grow older! They go to village quacks to get medication if there are no dispensaries available.
Fourth refers to the need of the Government Directive and the related licensing authorities (who issue shop licenses) that all medical stores must have qualified chemist who should be able to advice on generic medicines. Ministry of Health, in all the State Governments, must publicise details of Generic Medical shops so that patients can obtain competitively priced medicines in lieu of highly priced "branded" medications.
Finally, NPPA must make it mandatory for all priced medicines, must contain, on the package, not only the MRP Rates, but also the specially discounted rate for the Senior Citizens. The NPPA website does not show if the senior citizen's discount is 5% or 7%. Many drug stores, upon request, give 5% so as to retain the client, but they do NOT give this reduction voluntarily. NPPA can make this obligatory on the part of drug makers to print MRP and MRP for Senior Citizens.
It is time NPPA also prints the email address of the Organisation in their web site. The list of senior officers, starting with the Chairman, Injeti Srinivas (phone 23746630/6639 and fax No: 23746652) and others must also show details of those who are qualified as Pharmacists.
has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)