The Centre today told the Delhi High Court that if luxury condoms are removed from the Drug Price Control Order (DPCO) then the manufacturers will flood the market with their expensive variety and make their lesser priced contraceptives scarce.
The submission was made before a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain who said “if we exclude high priced condoms from DPCO, they (manufacturers) may flood market with their high-priced varieties”.
“They may even make their lower priced brands/products scarce or in poor packaging which may not inspire confidence in the consumers,” the ASG said adding that it could lead to creation of a class within a class.
The court said in response that the government can impose conditions on the companies to maintain the same proportion of manufacture as of now.
The court was hearing a plea by pharma firms Reckitt Benckiser and J K Ansell Ltd (JKAL) which have challenged the government’s decision to put a ceiling on the prices of condoms by including the product in the DPCO.
On the last date of hearing, the court had queried what was the issue if consumers are willing to pay for premium or luxury male contraceptives.
The government had earlier said condoms are currently in the national list of essential medicines and there can be no gradation, of luxury and ordinary, where drugs are concerned.
The pharma firms have in their pleas contended that their products are ‘devices’ and not ‘medicines’ and thus would not fall under the DPCO and therefore, no cap can be put on the prices.
The firms have claimed their products are luxury products “meant for pleasure” and have also sought clarification on whether the current ceiling would apply to only utility condoms and whether NPPA proposes to fix a separate cap on “pleasure condoms”.
The Centre had in July told the court that it has increased the cap on prices of all brands of condoms in the country by 22 per cent. However, the increase in prices comes to Rs 1.48.
The companies in their pleas have challenged a November 5, 2013 notification of the government according to which the ceiling on condom prices was fixed at Rs 6.56.
In its petition, Reckitt Benckiser has argued that the low ceiling price will force bigger companies to stop production, which in turn will have a negative effect on population control measures.
The central government, however, is of the view that since condoms help to prevent diseases, they came under the classification of ‘medicines’ and, hence, their prices can be controlled.