In a bid to make affordable healthcare a reality, the ministry of health and family welfare (MFHW) has mooted a proposal to regulate the prices of more essential drugs through the drugs price control order (DPCO). At present, only 74 drugs are listed under the DPCO.
In an affidavit before the Supreme Court, the ministry said it had recommended a list of 348 drugs in the DPCO.
It also acknowledged the fact that there was a huge difference between the manufacturing cost of drugs and their maximum retail price (MRP). The ministry said it had already written to the Department of Pharmaceuticals to take a final decision on the issue.
The SC will on Thursday examine the health ministry’s affidavit during the hearing of a public interest litigation that seeks to control the prices of essential drugs sold in open market. A bench headed by justice GS Singhvi may also consider the affidavit filed by the Department of Pharmaceuticals, ministry of chemicals and fertilisers which has ruled out fixing a time-frame to implement the new DPCO.
According to the department, it has posted the draft national pharmaceutical policy of 2011 on its website and has fixed November 30 as the last date for inviting comments from various drug companies and NGOs. It said no time-limit could be fixed since the procedure involved consultations with all stakeholders.
At present, prices of only 74 essential drugs are regulated under the DPCO. In the early 80’s, there were more than 300 drugs in the list. It was reduced to 140 in 1987. However, the number was drastically reduced to 74 in 1995 and the list has remained unrevised since then.
The revised National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM), approved by the health ministry and to be included in the DPCO, comprises 348 drugs.
In its affidavit, the health ministry stated: “It is respectfully submitted that one of the effective means to provide affordable healthcare to the public at large is to regulate prices of essential drugs through DPCO.”
Admitting that there was a huge gap between the manufacturing cost and the maximum retail price of a drug, the ministry said huge price differential also existed between different brands of the same medicine.