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Chemists to be liable for passing drug price cut to buyers

business Updated: Feb 26, 2016 01:15 IST
Chemists

If the new norms are implemented, the only responsibility of the drug maker will be to publish the revised prices on the company’s website. (Reuters File Photo)

Your local pharmacist may no longer be able to charge old prices for medicines whose price the government has cut.

Whenever the price of medicines are cut by the drug price watchdog, National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority (NPPA), the onus of implementing the revised price rests on the manufacturer at present. Government think-tank NITI Aayog has suggested that this role be shifted to the door of the druggist.

In the current regime, the manufacturer has to recall all existing batches of a medicine within 45 days of a price notification, put new price stickers and redistribute the packages.

In the interim, it is alleged, chemists don’t inform the consumer about the reduced prices, and continue to sell existing stocks at old prices. Drug makers, on the other hand, are penalised.

The government will soon float a draft Cabinet note to shift the overcharging penalty from manufacturers to drug retailers.

“The department of pharmaceuticals (DoP) will now change the policy by listing the shift in responsibility from manufacturers to retailers for not revising the prices of medicines,” said a senior NITI Aayog official. “The drug maker will only be responsible for stock which is at the company’s factory gate. Any product beyond the factory gate with old pricing will be the liability of the retailer — which in this case is chemist.”

“The NPPA will not monitor price revision of medicines at shops, but the drug regulators will keep a close watch on chemists, whether they have started passing on the benefits to consumer or not,” said a senior DoP official. “We will also draft penalty guidelines for chemists under the amendment of drugs and cosmetics act.”

If the new norms are implemented, the only responsibility of the drug maker will be to publish the revised prices on the company’s website.

Medicine prices are revised on annual basis on April 1. However, due to a few policy changes, or formulation price changes, the NPPA orders unscheduled price revisions as well.

As expected, the chemists are unhappy. “While we are waiting for a notification from the government, the step may impact the availability of drugs at retail outlets. It is not feasible for us to stop sale of drugs for 45 days until a new stock with new price comes in,” said JS Shinde, president, All-India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists, an association representing 750,000 pharmacists.