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      Drugs: Sibal prefers price monitoring

      Posted AtSify.com

      Drug manufacturers opposing recommendations made recently by a taskforce on medicines may have found a sympathiser in the Union Minister for Science and Technology, Kapil SibalAny regime that seeks to increase productivity should have incentives. Controls should be limited or done away with, Sibal said, addressing the members of the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) on Saturday.

      Making it clear that he was giving his "personal opinion", he spoke in favour of price-monitoring, as opposed to controls. And in coalition politics, the Government needed to take along the entire polity on such decisions, he added.

      But then again, India has a huge population of people who cannot pay for their medicines. Even markets in the European Union, Japan and Canada have direct price-controls, he told the gathering comprising top-executives from domestic and multinational drug companies.

      The US model is perhaps not the right one, where the drug company spends $1.2 billion to bring a drug into the market, but the middle class cannot afford to buy these medicines.

      Affordability and quality should be at the centre of any framework, he said, before launching his next attack on the recent taskforce recommendations.

      To peg a ceiling on the price of a drug by getting the weighted average of the top three brands in the therapeutic category is "irrational", he said. Those who have spent money to market a particular drug are being penalised and this strategy does not affect the man on the street.

      He also expressed his concern on the de-branding exercise planned for medicines that have a market-share of more than 70 per cent. "It is practically difficult to do this," he said taking the example of old brands like Saridon that may have more than 70 per cent market-share.

      "We need to apply our minds and address these concerns. The chemist should not be given the responsibility," he said, voicing a popular concern that selling medicines without brand-names would transfer the responsibility from doctor to the chemist.

      Essential medicines need to be clearly defined, he said, adding that one cannot have a control theory that puts a ceiling on the price of 314-odd drugs.
      Meanwhile, the fear that protecting intellectual property would result in medicine prices sky-rocketing beyond the reach of people was a misplaced concern, said the OPPI's President, Ranjit Shahani.

      "Even with over 10,000 manufacturers producing millions of doses of essential drugs at the lowest prices in the world for the last several years, access continues to remain abysmally low at about 35 per cent," he said.

      September 25, 2005


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