Pharma industry ensures no shortage of drugs but prices may surge amid coronavirus outbreak; here’s why

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Updated: February 18, 2020 4:44:06 PM

India heavily depends on China for the imports of bulk drugs.

high prices of medicines, coronavirus, drug prices, paracetamol, calcium tablets, paracetamol prices upNo specific approval is required from the government for the increase in prices of the drugs.

Even as the pharma industry representatives have assured the government that there are enough drugs and medicines to deal with any contingency, the prices of many major drugs may shoot up in India. The pharma bodies have ensured that there will be no shortage of any drugs, Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) and medicines in the coming days in India. The assurance of sufficient availability of drugs was given in the fifth meeting of the task force held yesterday, which was constituted by the government to formulate a road map for the enhanced production of APIs in the country and curb the over-dependence on imports.

India heavily depends on China for the imports of bulk drugs. In the year 2016, India imported 56.62 per cent of its bulk drugs requirement from China, which stood at 68.62 per cent in 2017, and 66.53 per cent in 2018, going by the data provided in Lok Sabha. “India has been importing Bulk Drugs/Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) which are required for the manufacture of certain drugs in the country. Many bulk drugs are imported from China, for the manufacturing of medicine,” Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers, D V Sadanand Gowda said in a reply to a question in Lok Sabha. No specific approval is required from the government for the increase in prices of the drugs, he added. 

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According to the regulations, the pharma companies can increase prices from the beginning of the new fiscal year, even without any approval from the government. As per provisions of the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 2013, pharmaceutical companies may increase the prices of scheduled drugs as per provisions of Para 16 of DPCO, 2013 on the basis of an annual wholesale price index (WPI) for preceding calendar year on 1st April every year.

“Small manufacturers are going to suffer more since they would not typically have much in inventory and short term impact of raw material availability or price increase would affect them significantly. Larger manufacturers would be able to hold for longer, but if coronavirus stays for a longer period then they would face significant challenges,” Sanjay Jha, Director, ColMed, told Financial Express Online. Moreover, medical devices are also going to suffer significantly since most of the low-cost items come from China and import restriction along with a significant increase in internal consumption in China could limit the availability and drive prices up, he added.

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