Vitamins or overpriced nutrients? Pharma firms face probeIn a bid to escape from price controls fixed by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), several industry majors are marketing drugs as food and nutrition supplements, says the regulator which has moved the Health Ministry to curb the practice.

Last June, the NPPA cited to the ministry instances of alleged violations in several vitamin products such as ‘Revital’ manufactured by Ranbaxy, Evion by Merck and brands made by Indchem and Troikaa. It said these products were sold at higher than levels notified by NPPA on the grounds that they were nutrition supplements.

Food and nutrition supplements are issued licences under the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act 1954.

Merck said it has corrected the anomaly and is now selling Evion 400 mg as a drug, slashing the price to Rs 14 from Rs 60 at which it was sold prior to the complaint. “Evion is being sold as a drug,” said an email from Merck Ltd.

An NPPA official said the price could dip further to Rs 11 if the authority found Evion only contained Vitamin E. NPPA monitors the prices of essential drugs. Rashesh Patel, vice-president (marketing), Troikaa Pharmaceuticals Ltd said that its brand Recharge Plus is manufactured under a drug licence and there could be some misunderstanding that may have led to complaints.
M.K. Singh, managing director Indchem Health Specialities said, “We have changed the chemical composition of SoftZID Gold and are selling it as a food supplement as per the therapeutic needs of the patients as per the doctor’s advice.”
NPPA has been working to plug legal loopholes that enable medicine makers to use regulatory gaps.