The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Thursday moved the Supreme Court seeking to be heard before the court passed any order on petitions challenging the drug price control order (DPCO) 2013. “Non-availability of medicines at affordable price is a violation of basic human rights to life and health,” the panel said.
DPCO 2013 was promulgated by the Centre to make available a national list of essential medicines (NLEM) at fair and reasonable prices to consumers. This order has been challenged by All India Drug Action Network (an NGO) in the SC.
The NGO says that under DPCO, simple average ceiling prices in many cases were higher than market leader price. Maintaining that market-based pricing was not used for price regulatory purposes, it demanded that the Centre should to continue with cost-based ceiling prices of all essential drugs.
The panel, meanwhile, said many essential drugs were missing from NLEM 2011 list and it has to be revised to keep up with health programmes. “The World Health Organisation list mentions 21 vaccines, the NLEM 2011 mentions only nine,” NHRC pointed out.
“Availability of drugs at reasonable price, especially in India where a third of the world’s 1.2 billion poorest live, is a concern as it is linked to ensuring every citizen enjoys their right to life and health,” the panel said.
A 2014 WHO report said India spent 4.2% of its GDP in 2011 on health as against 17.6% by the US or 8.8% by a developing country like Brazil.
The NHRC said that access to “treatment was heavily dependent on affordable medicines” and that “100 million people every year were pushed into poverty as they had to pay” for expensive health services.