The Union government’s group of ministers (GoM), which is debating the National Pharmaceutical Policy, held its first meeting in New Delhi and will conduct parleys with drug industry bodies, consumer groups and the non- governmental organizations, before recommending a final shape to the policy.
Constituted roughly three months ago, the group is expected to have at least two more rounds of meetings before they thrash out contentious issues such as price control of 354 life-saving drugs and negotiations on prices of patented drugs.
“We have just had preliminary discussions where the ministry of chemicals and fertilizers put forth its points. Next, we want to hear the arguments of other stakeholders such as the pharmaceutical associations, consumer and non-government bodies,” said Sharad Pawar, Union minister for agriculture, who heads the GoM.
The group’s next meeting has not been scheduled yet.
The policy had also recommended halving excise duty on drugs from 16% to 8%, public-private partnerships for provision of affordable cancer and anti-HIV drugs, strengthening of drug regulator for monitoring prices, strict norms on misbranding of drugs, bulk drug procurement by the government and promotion of non-patented drugs.
The controversial issue was, however, the price-control plans of essential life-saving medicines. While the industry wanted a market-driven approach to pricing, the chemicals and fertilizers ministry had opted for a cost-based formula. These differences led the government have the draft policy examined by the group of ministers.
Sticking to his ministry’s stance, as stated in the draft pharmaceutical policy, Ram Vilas Paswan, Union minister for chemicals and fertilizers said: “Our stance is clearly stated in the policy and the rest is before the GoM to take a call on. We just want the common man to have access to affordable drugs.”