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Prescriptions may go generic

Nithya Subramanian
Ambarish Mukherjee

New Delhi , Aug 4

TAKING a cue from UK's National Health Service (NHS), the Government is looking at the option of asking the medical fraternity to prescribe generic drugs, in order to bring down the prices of essential drugs.

Preliminary discussions have already begun among the Ministries concerned, which, among others, include the Ministry of Health and the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, which is the administrative department for the pharmaceuticals sector, Government officials told Business Line. "This could be part of a multi-pronged approach the Government wants to take to tackle the issue of drug pricing," officials said.

A study initiated by the Chemicals and Fertilisers Ministry has revealed that the difference between the cost of production of a generic drug and its maximum retail price (MRP) is very wide and the margins are either given to the chemists or the doctors who prescribe them.

NHS procures drugs for all its hospitals and has made it mandatory for doctors to prescribe only generic versions. "We feel that if this happens, the consumer would have the option of purchasing cheaper drugs. Also, increased competition will automatically bring down the prices," they said.

Along with this, the Government is also planning to set up a committee comprising representatives of the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, Health Ministry and the Drug Controller of India (DGCI) to come up with effective steps to control margins. "The committee will sift through the lists of essential drugs and decide which drugs should be under the price control," they added. Currently, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) controls the prices of around 75 bulk drugs. It is also felt that the overall health system in the country should be strengthened.

Meanwhile, deliberations with the industry will be initiated. Sources added that the Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, is expected to meet representatives of industry associations, corporate chiefs and the Advisory Forum on medicines later this month to work out a solution.

According to Mr Harinder S. Sikka, Senior President, Corporate Affairs, Nicholas Piramal India Ltd, "It is an established trend world over that the prices of generic drugs are much lower than the branded versions. The same Indian companies supplying generic drugs in the developed world follow the principle to the hilt. It is, however, unfortunate that generic companies do not follow the same principle at home and allow middlemen and retailers to milk patients by quoting MRP at par with branded drugs. A correction to this effect would bring cheer to the patients."

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