Hyderabad: Prices of medicines have become a most contentious issue with prices for original and also for generic drugs going very high. Even generic drugs are alleged to have a margin of 1000 per cent.
What is the actual price of the medicine? This is a million dollar question as there are no controls in place for the pricing policy of medicinal drugs. There is a growing body of evidence that the real price of the drugs are not linked to actual costs in terms of research, development and manufacturing.
Inflated drug prices are a result of the drug manufacturer’s power to charge the price depending on the market forces in India.
Dr Sai Kumar Katam, national president of the Doctor of Pharmacy Association, a non-profit professional organisation, says we need urgent legislative action to curb the prices of medicines.
“High drug prices are forcing some patients to skip doses of critical medicines and others to choose between their health and necessities like food and rent. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry continues to launch new drugs at exorbitant prices, increase prices of many old drugs without justification, and reap record profits. The problem being seen at the ground level is not only in branded drugs but also in generics where the prices are too high for the patients to afford,” Dr Katam said.
Generics which are available in the market are either branded generics or non-branded generics.
According to sources in the pharmaceutical industry, the price can be decided by the manufacturer and many have two vertical segments of the same molecule. While one segment of the drug is marketed in India, Asian and African countries and the other is marketed to the US and European countries. The prices of these drugs are almost 10 to 1000 times more than its original manufacturing cost, according to pharmacists.
Dr V.A. Achary, senior consultant in pharmacology explained, “Patient safety is not built into the system. Rather, it is only meeting the costs and profit margin. With the increasing burden of diseases, a concern is being raised on effective medications. The question of efficacy is arising because we are seeing a variety of medicines being used and whether it is helping to cure the patient of the disease or leading to an adverse effect has to be understood. “The high prices of medicines push patients to the brink but the effectiveness of the medicine, whether it really helps, also has to be evaluated.”
The effectiveness of generic drugs is always questioned. This is because where an original patented drug can help the patient has been found that more than five generics have to be taken and for a longer time.
The pricing issue has become a bone of contention as 47 states in the United States have filed suits in the courts against generic drugs which are mostly supplied from India. Similarly in India, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, Department of Health Research and the Indian Council of Medical Research have formed a committee to look into the pricing of drugs.