While holding that one of the main tasks ahead for the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) to ensure availability of medicines in far flung and inaccessible areas of the country, its newly-appointed chairman Dr S M Jharwal has sent a stern warning to the companies against any attempt to 'circumvent the price fixation and permissible price increase'.
“We presume that the companies also take note of the established outcome that by keeping the prices affordable for the common people, the demand generally rises leading to increase in volumes and profit in absolute terms. Therefore, let there be no effort to circumvent the price fixation and permissible price increase. So long as the matter remains simple and straight, it is beneficial to both, the industry and the consumers,” the chairman has stated.
He also pointed out that several far flung and inaccessible areas of the country remain meagrely covered by the modern medicines for variety of reasons. Making a serious effort by the agency to reach affordable medicines in those areas is important from the inclusive angle of the national progress, he said. While seeking cooperation from the industry and the state governments, he said the agency wanted to contribute 'more meaningfully’ in its advisory role to the government on revising and changing policies. Dr Jharwal, who was the first member secretary of the NPPA during 1997-99, has joined the agency as its chairman recently.
“We are of the firm opinion that the NPPA needs to maintain a fine balance between the interests of consumers and the producers in its work. However, sometimes we tend to make too much of price control. The fact is that as of now, out of the original list of 74 bulk drugs under price control, only about 45 drugs are produced in the country. The remaining drugs have either lived their life or are not being produced, because of better substitutes. Thus, of the total turnover of about Rs 90,000 crore per annum of pharma industry, approximately 8 per cent are under price control (and accounting for 20 per cent of the domestic retail sales). Notwithstanding this, some of the manufacturers have considerable share in producing the controlled drugs and they require necessary incentive for serving the large mass of people,” he said in a communiqué.
For NPPA, what is crucial is to monitor the drug prices, their movement, and prices of new launches and take remedial measures for ensuring 'Affordable Medicines for All'. This requires a much closer watch on the price movement of bulk drugs and formulations, which may not fall necessarily in the controlled category. Cooperation of pharmaceutical industry is a pre-requisite condition and “I am sure, they recognize their great social responsibility to provide medicines to the needy at reasonable prices. The price fixation and monitoring is for the well defined and approved combinations and the affordability of quality drugs needs to be ensured. Further, prompt feed back to NPPA by the pharmaceutical companies as laid down in DPCO would be beneficial to all concerned,” he said.