M A I N   N E W S

Drug prices spiral
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 25
Prices of most of the medicines have almost doubled during the past one year, and increased by six to ten per cent during the past two months.

The rise has come despite the policies formulated by the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers to reduce the prices of medicines.

In the past couple of months, the price of insulin injection - required by diabetics - has increased from Rs 145 to Rs 152. 56, while Voveran tablets (common analgesic) has increased by over Rs 2 per 10 tablets.

Dilzem (anti-hypertensive drug) prices, too, have increased from Rs 25. 80 to Rs 26. 70, while Citrizine prices have increased from Rs 31 to Rs 35. 30. Novaclox prices have increased from Rs 20.81 to Rs 45. 40 (10 mg), while Atorvastatin (10 mg anti-cholesterol) prices have increased from Rs 80 to Rs 85.60.

Though the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers had recently released a price-reduction list for over 850 generic medicines in October, the policy of a tax-inclusive regime (also implemented since October) has resulted in a hike in prices.

Before the tax-inclusive regime had come into effect, the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) printed on the medicines did not include the local taxes. Since retail margin was high, the chemists would not charge the local taxes.

With a tax-inclusive regime now being in force, the consumer has to pay a higher MRP as companies have increased the printed price by six to nine per cent. More interesting is a major hike in the price of Novaclox because the drug was included as an essential medicine and its price was reduced. However, the manufacturers changed the chemical compound in the medicine, and are now selling it at more than double its earlier price.

Prices of a number of drugs covering a wide range of therapeutic categories and several commonly used ones like analgesics, cough syrups, tonics and drugs meant to treat infectious diseases, bronchial disorders and antibiotics, anti-hypertensive, dermatological medicines, eye drops, disinfectants, gastrointestinal medicines, anti-diabetics etc have all gone up.

Sources say that prices of very few medicines like Carbamazipine (anti-epileptic drug) have gone down from Rs 17 to Rs 11.90.The government had earlier admitted that pharma companies were selling the drugs at 2000 per cent profit margin, but they could not act against them, as all drugs were not in the DPCO list.

Even the Supreme Court had asked the government to ensure that the prices of drugs under the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) be kept under control. Thus, it was decided to reduce the trade margins on these medicines, which were fixed at 15 per cent for wholesalers and 35 per cent for retailers.

Senior officials in the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, when contacted by TNS, said the rise in MRP of medicines was because of the tax-inclusive regime coming into effect.

“The new rates have been printed after including local taxes, which is six to eight per cent more than the earlier price. The MRP is not the final price and consumers can negotiate with the retailer. But if the rise in prices of medicines is more than six to eight per cent, strict action will be taken against the drug manufacturer,” said the official.



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