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      Drugs with 70 pc market share to be de-branded

      Posted AtThe Hindu Business Line

      PHARMACEUTICAL companies may have some respite with the Prime Minister's Task Force clarifying that only certain prescription drugs would be de-branded while excluding over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

      "The drugs for de-branding would be selected by the Government. Only those drugs where there is clear evidence of market dominance of 70 per cent or more (by a brand) will be brought under this," said Dr Pronab Sen, Principal Advisor, Planning Commission and Chairperson of the expert panel, after presenting the final draft report to Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers. This would impact less than one to two per cent of total formulations available.

      He further added that the proposal to establish a super regulator called the National Authority on Drugs and Therapeutics by merging the offices of the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) and National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) is a long-term objective. "In the short term, we will continue to have a dual structure for ensuring quality and fair pricing," Dr Sen added.

      The Task Force has further proposed that ceiling prices would be fixed for 314 drugs, based on the weighted average of the top three brands of a drug by value as on April 1, 2005. Earlier, it had proposed to bring all the 354 drugs in the national list of essential medicines under price ceiling. "About 40 items such as hospital oxygen, bleaching powder, some devices etc are bought by hospitals. Since they normally purchase in bulk through a tendering process, these items have been kept out," said Mr G.S. Sandhu, Joint Secretary, Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals.

      It has also suggested that the list of essential drugs should be revised each year, while there would be no price control on generic drugs. The Task Force has also suggested reducing the excise duty from 16 per cent to 8 per cent, pre-negotiation of patented products and access programmes for anti-cancer and anti-retroviral drugs.

      The expert committee has also suggested extending fiscal incentives for pharma companies involved in research and development (R&D) as well as extending Government support to such projects.

      Mr Paswan said, "The Common Minimum Programme of the Government has promised access to cheap drugs and this initiative is in that direction. The Ministry will now examine the recommendations and then prepare a Cabinet note." The policy is expected to be ready in the next few months.

      Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry has once again reiterated that the decision to de-brand certain drugs could lead to companies killing the molecule and consumers losing out. However, industry officials were not able to provide examples immediately.

      According to Mr D.G. Shah, Secretary General, Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, "De-branding could lead to growth in spurious drugs and give more power to the chemist." The Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India feels that instead of fixing a ceiling price, prices should be frozen at current levels.

      Mr Harinder Sikka, President, Nicholas Piramal India Ltd (NPIL) felt that the report does not offer any favour to companies involved in R&D.

      September 21, 2005


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