Even as the recommendations by the high-powered panel, constituted by the Union chemicals ministry around two years ago for price negotiations of drugs patented abroad and marketed in the country, is getting inordinately delayed, the government will soon decide the next course of action on the issue.

 

"Concerned authorities in the department of pharmaceuticals and other ministries will meet soon, probably on January 12, to take the next course of action on this issue. Nobody knows what will be the next course of action. The government has to decide whether further study is needed on the issue or whether the government has to consult the stakeholders further, all these issues will be discussed in the proposed meeting next week," a senior official involved in the issue said.

The official said that the high-level panel under the joint secretary in the department of pharma did not finalize its recommendations so far even though the panel held several rounds of meetings with all the stake-holders during the last one year. Apart from hearing all the stake-holders, the panel is studying the systems existing in other countries on the issue. The panel was set up in February 2007 to suggest a mechanism on price negotiations of drugs patented abroad and marketed in the country. The panel held several meetings so far with industry associations, NGOs, concerned ministries and departments, but failed to come up with an amicable solution to the issue so far.

While the government aims to ensure that the drugs and medical devices patented abroad are made available at affordable prices to the common man in the country as and when the multinational companies launch them in India, the big pharma companies are opposing the government move to control the prices of patented drugs while introducing them in the country on the plea that it is discriminatory and will go against the spirit of patent protection.

The big companies argue that the government move will only prove to be counter-productive as the multinational companies will not launch their products in the country if such a restriction is imposed on them, creating a situation where the needy patients of this country will not have easy access to the latest products of the pharmaceutical industry. The research and development (R&D) is a highly capital intensive and highly risky business, and a company spends an average of one billion US dollar for a new drug to develop. The companies have to recover the money spent on R&D and also to continue the R&D activities, they argue.