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Tuesday, Aug 10, 2004

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Drugs cheaper here than in Pak, Lanka

Nithya Subramanian

New Delhi , Aug. 9

EVEN as the Government is planning to lower drug prices by bringing around 300 drugs under price control, the Indian pharmaceutical industry feels that prices of drugs in India are cheaper than those available in the neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Sri Lanka. However, Bangladesh is an exception where prices of several drugs are lower than India.

A comparative list of ten popular drugs in 2003, submitted to the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers by the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA), indicates that amlodipine and losartan used for high blood pressure and atorvastatin (a cholesterol busting drug) are cheapest in India. For instance, a pack of 10 tablets of atorvastatin is available for Rs 58 in India, while the same is priced at Rs 525.40 in Pakistan and Rs 275.59 in Bangladesh.

According to the IPA, consumers in Pakistan pay 2-15 times more than consumers in India.

Industry sources said that the Indian market is extremely competitive and about 65 per cent of the domestic consumption is being catered to by the local companies. "In markets like Pakistan and Sri Lanka, multinationals dominate and hence the prices of drugs there are higher than in India," said a pharmaceutical company official.

In India, there are several companies, which manufacture these products. For example, Clomipramine - an anti-depressant and anti-maniac - is manufactured by Sun Pharma, Alidac, Torrent, Intas and some others while amlodipine is manufactured by over 30 companies such as Cadila, Sun, Torrent, Cipla and Dr Reddy's Ltd.

However, Bangladesh is seen as an exception, because some of the mass products are manufactured within the country, while speciality products are generally made available by multinationals. "India cannot be compared to Bangladesh due to the difference in size of the market. Several mass consumed drugs are locally manufactured, but cheap labour and the low valuation of the currency should also be factored into the price," said an industry analyst.

Interestingly, several Indian pharmaceutical companies are eyeing the sub-continent. Ranbaxy Laboratories is planning to foray into the Pakistan market, while Sun Pharmaceuticals has also made its debut in Bangladesh.

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