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      Now, Local Cos Offer Drugs at 'half price'

      Posted AtEconomic Times

      On the face of a credible threat of price control recommended by the Prime Minister's task force on affordable medicines, big domestic drug makers have offered a freeze on prices of almost two-thirds of all the drugs sold in the country. These drugs in the '03 list of essential medicines include costly cancer and cardiovascular drugs.

      Like MNCs which offered a similar deal yesterday, Indian companies are ready to supply drugs to the government at half the price, "forgoing the 30% trade margin and 20% prescription-generation costs".

      Union chemicals minister Ram Vilas Paswan today told reporters that a new pricing policy would be finalised in two weeks and a Cabinet note would be ready by the first week of October. Drug firms are offering a freeze on prices as the task force, which they lobbied with the PMO to set up, has much against their expectations gave recommendations which would virtually bring all drugs under price control. It had suggested that even drugs outside the list of essential list could invite government intervention if prices go up more than 10% in comparison with that of a similar price-controlled drug.

      While big Indian companies like Ranbaxy Laboratories, Wockhardt, Torrent, Cadila, Lupin, Unichem and US Vitamins agree to a freeze offered by MNCs, these companies bargain that prices of a class of drugs should be frozen at the price of the brand leader in value terms.
      They oppose the task force recommendation of a weighted average of the top three brands saying that it would eliminate competition among the top three, which usually control more than 60% of the market.

      Besides, the costliest in any class of drugs would be priced at least 15%-20% above the brand leader in terms of value. But since the costliest drug has a negligible market share, it will have to come down, said Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance secretary general DG Shah.

      While prices may be frozen where they were on April 1, '05, yearly revisions may be linked to inflation, they said. Only 272 of the 354 drugs in the essential drug list need to be frozen, drug firms said.

      Paswan said that a decision on the policy would be taken in two weeks after MNCs and domestic companies submit a market study. Small and medium companies, too, agreed for a freeze, said a representative of the Indian Drug Manufacturers Association.

      A Confederation of Indian Industries delegation led by Piramal Enterprises chairman Ajay Piramal demanded that all drug companies doing research should be exempt from price controls as recommended by RA Mashelkar in 1999.

      September 06, 2005


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