High drug prices: Not a healthy sign, says experts | delhi | Hindustan Times
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High drug prices: Not a healthy sign, says experts

The government's bid to provide healthcare to all may not work, if the prices of drugs continue to rise at the present, a high-level expert group on health opined.

delhi Updated: Mar 14, 2011 00:11 IST
Chetan Chauhan

The government's bid to provide healthcare to all may not work, if the prices of drugs continue to rise at the present, a high-level expert group on health opined.

A study done by a group formed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to prepare a road map for providing healthcare to all citizens by 2020 has said the prices of drugs and medicines have increased 170% compared to 70% for other commodities since late 1990.

The high cost of medical facilities has resulted in 28% of ailments in rural India, whereas 20% of population in urban areas goes untreated. And, of those who get hospitalised, 47% in rural India and 31% in urban India have to sell their assets to pay for medical expenses.

The National Sample Survey Organisation has found that on average an Indian spends 78% of the medical costs on medicines alone.

"It is a serious problem," said K Shrinath Reddy, who heads the expert group.

"Domestic production of medicines has fallen as many companies are being taken over by MNCs."

The way forward, suggested by the group, is to infuse investment in public sector pharmaceuticals and revive old PSUs to augment production.

For the private sector, the group said the foreign direct investment (FDI) in pharmaceutical sector should be reduced from 100% to 49%.

Congress MP Jyoti Mirdha, a doctor by profession, wanted regulation of FDI in health sector saying automatic route for FDI was making basic health service out of reach of aam aadmi.

CPM MP PK Biju said there were huge variations in prices up to 1,000 times in anti-cancer drugs manufactured by MNCs and Indian firms and urged the Centre to bring them under the drug price control policy.

The group has asked the government to set up retail outlets on contract basis, where the drugs should be supplied through a centralised procurement.