Widening the net
Of late, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), previously accused of having ‘no bite’, has become so active that pharmaceutical companies like Cipla and Ranbaxy, champions at providing low-cost versions of MNC drugs, are accusing the government of being ‘anti-industry’ and forcing them out of business by asking them to further lower the drug prices. Leading pharmacos are resisting the NPPA’s views and the matter is languishing in various courts. Another tactic to avoid price control is to outsource production of the drug in question, but the Mumbai High Court has recently cracked down on Johnson & Johnson for this practice and it looks like this avenue for evasion will also soon be blocked.
To my mind, it is a question of letting free market forces decide the price of drugs. Competition will keep prices within control and also allow pharmacos to re-invest profits in research, which will hopefully bring out more medicines. This cycle cannot be broken. After all, it is one thing to keep medicine prices low, but quite another task to actually deliver these medicines to the people that need them most. The key will be to simultaneously improve accessibility as well as affordability.
Regular readers of this magazine will notice that this time, my editorial is being crowded out by letters from readers to one of my past editorials on the patent scenario in India. I am not complaining and I hope that this trend continues. In fact, we are taking off from the letters and featuring a debate on this in the next issue. Do write to us on the drug pricing policy and we will do a forum on this issue as well.