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Widely used drugs to cost up to 50% less

MUMBAI: Prices of widely used medicines like painkillers, anti-infectives, antibiotics and anti-cancer and cardiovascular drugs are slated to come down by up to 50% by July-end. The drug pricing regulator, National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), on Monday issued a notification to regulate prices of 150-odd essential medicines. 

The notification follows the drug pricing control order, mandated under 
the nationalpharma policy, being cleared last month. According to the national pharma policy, prices of 652 formulations under 27 therapeutic areas like anti- infectives (cetrizine), cardiac (aten), gastro-intestinal medicines (ocid), painkillers (paracetamol) and anti-diabetic drugs (insulin) are expected to go down. 

Others in the national list of essential medicines include anti-fungal, anti-tuberculosis, anti-leprosy, anti-hypertensives and 
cancer drugs. Once implemented, it will result in prices of drugs coming down by nearly 15-20% on an average. 

The changes in prices will be effective after 45 days from the date of issue (of the NPPA notification) to allow the trade to liquidate 
stocks with existing prices and give time to manufacturers to revise the prices on packs. Over the next few weeks, the NPPA will issue ceiling prices, capping more drugs according to the policy. This was the first notification issued by the NPPA. 

According to the NPPA notification, prices of popular pain and fever medicine paracetamol will go down by nearly 40%, antibiotics (azithromycin) by 40%, cardiac drugs (losartan and atorvastatin) by 45%. 

Cancer medicines, which are the one of most expensive therapies, will drop by up to 50%. For instance, the NPPA has fixed the ceiling price of doxorubicin 50 ml injection, used in cancer, at Rs 1,145, 50% cheaper. 

The government notified the Drug Prices Control Order (DPCO) 2013 on May 15, replacing the 1995 order, which empowers the NPPA to issue ceiling prices of 348 essential drugs, while the existing policy controls only 74 bulk drugs.The policy was cleared by the Cabinet in November last year, but was delayed due to the absence of the DPCO being issued. 

The DPCO 2013 will regulate prices of drug formulations on the basis of a market-based mechanism, as against a cost-based system which existed till now. 

Manufacturers will have to reduce the prices where they are selling the drug more than the ceiling price fixed by the regulator, while those priced below the cap, would not be allowed to hike prices. 

The policy uses a market-based pricing method—'the simple average method'—for determining the ceiling price of all the molecules (drugs) under a particular therapeutic area with over 1% market share. The scope of the policy is around 18-20% of the Rs 72,000 crore pharmaceutical market; coupling it with the existing medicines already under price control, the coverage increases to around 30%.