The government is of the view that there is no price manipulation or artificial scarcity of essential medicines in the country even as a parliamentary committee has recommended that price caps should be extended to all drugs in the country and that the government should expedite the capping process.
Minister of state for chemicals and fertilizers Hansraj Gangaram Ahir informed the Lok Sabha today that there was no basis to believe that essential/scheduled drugs or non-scheduled drugs are being sold at high prices due to shortage or there is insufficient supply of the drugs in the country. This is based on the available pharmaceutical database, in terms of moving annual turnover (MAT) of such drugs, both with respect to volume and value, he added.
NPPA monitors shortages and non-availability of drugs on the basis of reports received from state drugs control administrations and also complaints, if any, received from individuals etc. On receipt of such reports, NPPA takes up the matter with the concerned manufacturer and advices them to rush the stock in the affected area, the minister pointed out.
He said there is a mechanism of monitoring the stock and availability of the essential drugs/scheduled drugs under the Drug Price Control Order (DPCO) 2013 that provides for submission of quarterly return in respect of production/import and sales of scheduled medicines (NLEM medicines) and active pharmaceutical ingredients contained in scheduled formulations by the manufacturer/importer/marketer.
Further, any manufacturer/importer wanting to discontinue manufacture/import of a scheduled formulation has to apply to NPPA at least 6 months in advance, and NPPA can direct applicant to continue production/import up to one year, he said.
The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has, meanwhile, started `Pharma Jan Samadhan (PJS),' an online system for receiving and taking action related to non-availability and overcharging of medicines, in order to provide a consumer friendly mechanism to resolve grievances.
All essential medicines specified in the National List of Essential Medicines, 2011 (NLEM) are included in the First Schedule of DPCO, 2013 and are under price control. However, life saving drugs are not defined in the Drugs (Price Control) Order, 2013.
A standing committee on chemicals and fertilisers, which has 31 MPS, had noted in a report tabled in Parliament that all medicines should be available in the market at an affordable price in a country where a majority of people live on less than $2 a day and health insurance is scarce.
"The committee recommends that the scope of price control needs to be enlarged to make all the drugs available, especially life saving drugs in all parts of the country," the committee's report said.