The government is considering making the voluntary uniform code for Pharma Marketing Practices compulsory and would open 3,000 Jan Aushadhi outlets across the country, the Rajya Sabha was informed today.
During a debate on high drug prices, the government also said that savings to consumers on account of revision and price fixing of essential drugs amounted to Rs 4,988 crore in the last two years.
Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Aggarwal, who moved the call attention motion on high prices of essential medicines due to the absence of pharmaceutical pricing policy in the country, sought jail term for those who exploited the poor in the name of healthcare.
He gave examples of various hospitals including a “big one” in Gurgaon and Apollo where prices of medicines were very high and alleged that “even corpses are not released to the family till the full payment is made.”
Aggarwal asked the government to come out with a strong policy so that cheap generic medicines can be promoted in place of very expensive branded items.
He alleged a “nexus” between the pharma companies, hospitals, medical representatives and chemists and said “this has to be broken.”
In his reply, Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers Ananth Kumar admitted that the voluntarily Uniform Code for Pharma Marketing Practices introduced last year to stop unethical practices was not working well.
“We are contemplating of making it compulsory,” Kumar said.
Talking about prices of drugs, he said the government was working on opening 3,000 Jan Aushadhi outlets in the country which will give out generic medicines at a fraction of the market price.
He said availability of good quality medicines at reasonable prices was a high priority area for the central government and hence it has brought out a revised National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM 2015) and including more medicines in it.
Kumar said his department has also taken up with the Health Ministry to make it mandatory for doctors to prescribe generic medicines and allow pharmacists to substitute generic medicines for prescription in brand name medicines.