New Delhi: The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) on Tuesday notified revised ceiling prices for a second batch of drugs categorized under the National List of Essential Medicines.
Forty life-saving medicines have been brought under price control as per the Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO) 2013 in this instalment, part of the government’s initiative to ensure that critical medicines are within affordable reach of patients.
While experts maintain that the new pricing order, applicable only to certain dosages, will have a modest impact, industry analysts are expecting prices of anti-diabetic, anti-cancer and anti-hypertension drugs to fall by 20-30%.
“As expected, there is, on an average, a 20% reduction in price if we compare the ceiling price with that of the current brand leader in each segment,” said Amit Sengupta, public health activist at Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, a civil socity organization.
“In the 15 drugs that I looked at, the impact on the entire range of brands will be much less as drugs currently priced below the ceiling price will not be affected. The prices of brand leaders are affected,” he said.
Unlike earlier initiatives, this one is confined to specified drugs and their dosages indicated in the DPCO list, he said. Earlier, if a drug was in the price control category, all combinations and dosage forms were automatically covered.
“This means that the span of price control will be very modest. An analysis of two drugs—paracetamol and glibenclamide—shows that only 20.87% and 35.70%, respectively, of all products containing these two drugs will be covered by price control,” Sengupta said. This confirms the earlier apprehension that the move will “benefit the sale of combination products and non-standard dosage forms”, he said.
The first batch of price revisions according to the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy 2012 was announced on 14 June, with 151 drugs coming under the new regime. The new prices, fixed as per the DPCO formula, will come into effect within 45 days of the NPPA notification.
Drug makers are concerned that prices fixed by the regulator are not in line with the policy approved by the Cabinet, said D.G. Shah, director general of the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance lobby group.
The pricing formula “was the major issue of contention. The NPPA’s price fixation policy has deviated from the formula. We have taken it up with the authorities in NPPA and department of pharmaceuticals. We hope the matter can be sorted before the next list of revised prices are announced,” he said.
According to the new pricing policy, the ceiling will be based on the simple average of the prices of all brands of a drug that have a market share of at least 1%. The national list of essential medicines lists 348 bulk drugs that are sold as 650 formulations. Until now, only 74 drugs were under price control.
The formula is being contested in the Supreme Court by the All India Drug Action Network, a civil society grouping that is arguing in favour of a cost-plus-profit margin pricing mechanism for life-saving drugs.