Move on drug pricing set to hit Kerala

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority’s (NPPA) decision to withdraw the provisions which allowed it to fix a ceiling for the prices of certain ‘non-essential’ drugs has drawn widespread protests from Kerala, one of the largest consumers of drugs in the country.

NPPA, the country’s drug price regulating body, had in July this year, used a provision in the Drug Price Control Order 2013, which authorised it to regulate the prices of drugs under ‘extraordinary circumstances,’ to fix the ceiling prices of 108 drugs (cardiac, diabetes, cancer drugs), which are currently not included in the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM).

This decision had led to widespread protest from the pharma industry. On September 22, following a directive from the Department of Pharmaceuticals, the NPPA withdrew its guidelines for price control it had issued in July.

Though the order is to come into effect prospectively, there has been no clarification from the Centre regarding the prices of the 108 drugs put under the price ceiling by NPPA.

The indecision has switched on the panic mode in Kerala, with the Health Minister writing to the Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan that the withdrawal of NPPA circular can seriously affect Kerala, which has a very morbid population with a high prevalence of diabetes and other chronic non-communicable diseases (NCD).

The Indian Medical Association has also expressed its anxiety that the move could go in favour of the pharma companies which are already fighting legal battles regarding the price control of cardiac and diabetes drugs. It is worried that the prices of these drugs could go up and affect the government’s NCD control programme.

The Indian Pharmaceutical Association and the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India are currently engaged in a legal battle, seeking the withdrawal of NPPA’s July order. The IMA pointed out that while drug quality control was under the Health Ministry, the manufacture and price control of drugs were under the Chemicals and Fertilizers Ministry.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2021 6:35:53 AM |

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