Stating that all medicines are essential, a Parliamentary panel has recommended expanding the scope of price control to cover all medicines available in the country.
According to a report by the Standing Committee on Chemicals and Fertilisers tabled in Parliament today, all medicines, including life saving drugs, should be available in the market at affordable cost.
Currently, drug price regulator National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has fixed prices of 509 formulation packs based on National List of Essential Medicines.
“The Committee was surprised to know that all medicines are not listed in the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM). The committee are of the view that all medicines are essential and is taken only when it is needed by the patient,” the report on Department of Pharmaceuticals said.
The panel further said: “All these medicines, including life saving drugs, should be available in the market at affordable cost. To keep this in view, the committee recommend 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 government should also expedite the process of notifying the ceiling prices of the remaining medicines in NLEM, it added.
Expressing concern over large sum of money spent on importing pharmaceutical products, the panel also called for incentivising domestic bulk drug industry and discourage Indian firms from buying from overseas.
It said Rs 17,944 crore was spent in 2013-14 to import medicinal and pharmaceutical products.
“The Committee are of the strong view that to realise the dream of ‘Make in India’ concept in pharmaceutical sector, the government should boost and incentivise domestic bulk drug industry and discourage Indian pharmaceutical firms from importing,” it said.
The panel also said it was dissatisfied with the department’s explanation that imports were made on quality and economic considerations and not necessarily due to non-availability from domestic sources.
It further said in order to make the country self-reliant, revival of sick public sector units was necessary to create capacity of bulk drugs.
Moreover, the panel said it expected the department to expedite the formulation of policy on production of APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients) in India.
The committee also came down heavily on the department for its inability to utilise funds allocated for various purposes stating it clearly spoke about “the poor performance of the department in utilisation of its plan allocation”.
According to the report, “Against the allocated funds Rs 2.44 crore for the scheme on targets specific new drugs discovery for anti-TB and Kalaazar, a sum of Rs 0.71 crore was released in last financial year of 2014-15 and balance amount could not be released as the utilisation certification was not provided by NIPER Mohali.
“The committee therefore feel that department could not achieve its avowed objectives and targets set for various scheme/programmes unless the funds are utilised by the department optimally and efficiently,” it said.
Stating that department “should make earnest efforts for optimum utilisation of funds allocated to them”, the panel said it would “like to be apprised of the initiatives undertaken by the department in this regard”.