Drug pricing regulator looking to make vital health supplements more affordable

Drug pricing regulator looking to make vital health supplements more affordable

India‘s drug pricing regulator is considering capping prices of vital medicines like vitamin A, vitamin C, glycerine and anti-tetanus immunoglobulin to curb profiteering by the pharmaceutical companies.

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) proposes to invoke extraordinary powers in public interest, under para 19 of Drugs Prices Control Order (DPCO) 2013, for an indefinite period to make them more affordable to patients, it has said.

“The NPPA has been invoking para 19 in certain cases in the public interest to make drugs affordable with indefinite period,” said the minutes of the authority meeting. ET has seen the minutes of the meeting.

“Despite the fact that India is the pharmacy of the world, out-of-pocket expenses on medicines is the largest cause for pushing families beyond the poverty threshold; therefore, there is a need to make use of such provisions,” a senior official said.

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The move could impact some of the leading manufacturers of these supplements such as Abbott Laboratories, Bayer AG, GlaxoSmithKline, among others.

“The move is also likely to face resistance from the pharma industry,” a pharma lobby expert said, requesting anonymity.

Market data shows that vitamin and mineral supplement launches in India have been on the increase. According to All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD), the rapid increase in the number of Covid-19 cases pushed the demand for immunity boosters like vitamin tablets by 30%-40%.

Doctors said as Covid-19 cases increased, people started taking boosters as a precautionary measure as they are deemed beneficial for the immunity, including reducing the risk in respiratory infections. Even though there is a lack of evidence supporting the role of vitamins in Covid-19.

Earlier, in 2017, the drug pricing regulator had reduced the prices of stents by 87% and orthopaedic knee implants by invoking para 19 of Drugs Prices Control Order (DPCO) 2013 for a period of one year. Subsequently, it was extended for another year. A report released by the NPPA in 2020 revealed that price caps on cardiac stents imposed by the government had improved their accessibility.

(With inputs from health)