In view of the changing conditions in this market, it is imperative that the Ministry of Health, under JP Nadda, takes suitable action to educate the public on the drugs sold in the market
The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), from time to time, caps the prices of various medications so that these are as easily available and affordable as possible, to the public. The Drug regulator has mandated all manufacturing companies to seek its approval for every new medicine, including combinations of the existing ones, so that the consumer is not overcharged.
Until recently, the prices of 374 medicines were capped by the Government. The Pharma market is said to be large and estimated to be about Rs79,000 crore and, due to the increased usage and introduction of more expensive drugs, likely to become even bigger in the years ahead. In spite of this, very often, to by-pass the control of the Regulator, manufacturers are known to modify the mixes, combinations and dosages in such a manner that they fall outside the purview of the 374 medicines that are listed and capped by NPPA!
However, NPPA keeps a close watch on these, including the formulations and the new drugs that come into the market to protect the consumer.
Recently, NPPA has revised the prices of some 52 formulations which include basic medicines like antibiotics as well as medications to manage kidney failures. It may be remembered that the manufacturers are free to fix the launch prices of all new medicines outside the list of 374 capped ones, but in order to do so, it is mandatory for them to submit a compliance certificate to the price controller "approving" the new medicine, as a "new drug". This will have to be obtained from the Drug Controller General of India.
Apart from keeping a close watch on prices of essential drugs and ensuring that, by various "technical" means, manufacturers do not increase prices, as explained above, it is also necessary for NPPA or the Ministry of Health to ensure those of the life-saving drugs that Multi-National Companies have been delaying launch or supply in India, after getting the monopoly rights. It has been reported in the press, that cheaper generic versions of the exorbitantly priced medicines are also going "off-the-shelf" under the product-patent law!
Press reports further indicate that some of the MNCs that can supply drugs to treat serious illness like cancer, HIV hepatitis C and TB are somehow deferring the launch for reasons best known to them. Such moves make artificial shortage in the market.
In the meantime, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has moved a Cabinet note to allow 100% FDI in medical devices as part of a strategy to not only reduce imports but also to promote local manufacture, and supply to the global market. 70% of such medical devices that India needs are imported and India has the potential and capacity to make for export as well. The global market for such devices is said to be huge, estimated to be over $ 400 billion!
In view of the changing conditions in this market, it is imperative that the Ministry of Health, takes the following action:
a) Ministry of Health directs all Doctors, issuing prescriptions, need to give the generic names of drugs that are being prescribed, along with branded names, if given. These are to be written in Capital letters, in English (that the patient may not know English, does not matter, besides being illiterate)
b) Ministry of Health, in all the States, publish advertisements in the local (vernacular) press, as well as in English language, the above (a) fact, and also list out the names of shops, full address details, including phone numbers etc, where, patients can obtain generic medicines
c) Ministry of Health must also direct that all medicines dispensing shops, located in hospitals, need to have list of generic medicines available in the store - experience shows, when patients are admitted in the hospital, more often than not, prescriptions are handed over to the person accompanying the patient to "obtain this or that medicine from shop downstairs"!
d) Ministry of Health must direct all manufacturers to print the generic names of drugs on the packages for easy reference! If some of them already have adequate stocks of such packages, they should be allowed to put "stickers" or rubber stamp the generic names
e) Ministry of Health must direct the manufacturers that it is mandatory for them to list the senior citizen's discount and clearly state the price applicable in the package itself
Finally, Dr Harsh Vardhan must immediately authorise organisations like NPPA to upgrade their websites and show accessible email addresses so that the public can contact and obtain information from them. NPPA or Drug Controller and other similar related organisations under the Ministry of Health should all be listed in one place, identifying their main functions and identifying the Public Relations officer who should be able to answer public when they get in touch with them.
It is necessary such organizations become easily accessible to the public.
(AK Ramdas 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.)
A leak of potentially market moving information from the Federal Reserve became a topic of conversation in the high-level Fed group that sets monetary policy.
Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request from ProPublica, the Federal Reserve acknowledged that the leak of confidential material to an investor newsletter is referenced in nine pages of transcripts of meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee in late 2012 and early 2013.
As reported earlier, the October 2012 newsletter by the market intelligence firm Medley Global Advisors contained detailed and closely held information about what Fed leaders were thinking and what would be in the minutes of an FOMC meeting the day before they were publicly released.
The leak upset many members of the committee, which sets central bank policies that influence interest rates and credit. The group's deliberations take place in private, but the Fed routinely releases a summary three weeks later.
After the group's September 2012 meeting, then-Chairman Ben Bernanke asked the Fed's general counsel and secretary to find out how details about the session got into the newsletter. Bernanke also asked them to look into other leaks from the September meeting that appeared in a Wall Street Journal story.
Until now, the Fed has not publicly acknowledged anything about the leaks.
In the FOIA request, ProPublica asked for "any and all references in the FOMC transcripts between October 23, 2012 and March 20, 2013 that were made by any FOMC participant (including name) relating to leaks of information" found in the Medley newsletter or Journal.
In its response, the Fed said its staff "reviewed the transcripts of the four FOMC meetings during the timeframe given in your request and located approximately nine pages of responsive information."
The Fed declined to release the material, citing a FOIA exemption for "pre-decisional, deliberative communications" by the committee. Instead, the transcripts will be made public in 2018, according to the board's long-standing policy of waiting five years, the Fed said in its response.
A Fed spokeswoman declined further comment.
Leaks to news media about FOMC deliberations are not unprecedented, but the information is usually widely disseminated. In this case, the newsletter containing the inside information was available only to Medley's private clients, who in theory could have traded on it.
Past leaks have prompted the chairman of the Federal Reserve to call in the inspector general or other outside investigative agencies. The Fed has declined to say what came of the inquiry Bernanke launched or answer other questions submitted by ProPublica.
Read more of reporter Jake Bernstein's coverage of the Federal Reserve.