The drug regulator has stepped up its crackdown against major pharmaceutical companies have been cocking a snook at the government and selling regulated drugs at higher than stipulated prices.
The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has slapped overcharging notices on drug makers who ignored price ceilings laid down by it.
The government has found 37 cases of overcharging of medicine prices by major companies, involving a penalty of nearly R130 crore. The NPPA has issued notices to companies including Aurbindo Pharma, Aventis, Lucent Biotech, Claris Life Science and Ipca Labs among others. “These cases pertain to drugs whose prices are controlled under the government’s drug price control order, and where companies were not adhering to the price specified by the NPPA. Over the years, the principal and interest chargeable has been piling up,” said CP Singh, chairman, NPPA.
As of March 2012, NPPA had issued demand notices in over 800 cases involving R2,462 crore. “Of this, R219 crore has been realised till March 2012. The rest is under litigation and pending in various courts,” Srikant Kumar Jena, minister of state, chemicals and fertilisers, said in a written reply in Lok Sabha recently.
The drugs in which overcharging has been detected include common prescription drugs such as Combiflam, Doxyl, I-V fluid, Zclox, Aroflox and Butafen. Of the 37 firms in question, Astalife and Claris Life Sciences have filed suits, while 15 firms have not yet replied to notices. “We are aggressively taking actions to curb the price rise,” Singh said. “We have expedited the process of realising the penalties from firms.”
The drug watchdog has also increased the frequency with which it makes suo motu purchase of drug samples, in a bid to keep prices under check.