In the previous piece, I had referred to the increasing difficulty for an ordinary citizen to identify whether the medicine strip he has just bought is generic or branded as the packaging for both is almost similar, or at times, is almost a carbon copy of each other. Stakeholders, are unwilling to come on record, except perhaps the patients, who are unfortunate enough to have to bear with the exorbitant pricing of almost all kinds of medicines everywhere.
What then is way ahead? Medicines, unfortunately, will remain a sellers’ market for all times to come. We just have to live with that. It is in this context that the government’s role becomes all the more important as the consumer are hardly in a position to influence the price, and thus ensure affordability. One has to view the pharmaceutical business as a paradigm where three things are definite ingredients in its working model.
The primary importance has to be given to quality, as spurious medicines are no better than poison. The second plank has to be affordability for patients, and the third important idea that needs to be in-built is creating a system where certain levels of profit for pharmaceutical companies are guaranteed. We would also have to ensure that a part of this money is used to fund new research and development and conduct clinical trials, etc. The government or an autonomous regulator’s role then becomes all the more critical in maintaining the fine balance between affordability and profitability.
We have multiple layers of regulatory structure that is divided between the Centre and the states. The ministry of health and family welfare makes rules for clinical trials through the Central Drug Standard and Control Organisation (CDSCO).
In the ministry of chemicals and fertiliser, we have National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) that fixes and revises prices of controlled drugs and formulations. It is also mandated to enforce prices and availability of medicines in the country under the Drug (Prices Control) Order, 1995. Now, we also have the notification of DPCO 2013 that lays down the ceiling price of around 500 medicines. For instance, the rate of Azithromycin in 500mg dosage is capped at ` 22.65 and by and large the order has been followed. For prices of other medicines, please go to the link www.nppaindia.nic.in and click under the head compendium of prices (sixteenth item on the vertical toolbar).
Coming back to the business of medicines and healthcare: medicines at the end of the day are just a small, but costly part of the overall system we have built up as a country to be a nation of healthy, active and buoyant citizens. As it is, there has been a welcome move in the country to move to a culture of personal wellness from mere health that treats only symptoms.
Finally, in an age where there is excessive focus on looking good, health seems to have been a luxury that only our previous generation relished as physical labour was an integral part of their lives. Hope, we also see a revival towards physical labour. tures were placed in this enclosure on November 13, 2015, at a ceremony attended by Haryana chief minister ML Khattar. These 10 birds are earmarked for the first-ever full release into the wilderness of captive-bred vultures.
“A maximum of 32 visiting vultures have been counted outside the enclosure. The good thing is that these visiting vultures are also roosting nearby. We are putting out feed for the visiting vultures next to the enclosure so that captive birds get familiar with wild birds. When we feel the environment is free of killer drugs, we will remove the wire mesh one night, so that the captive birds do not notice the change. As per the plan, birds will remain at the spot for some time, though free to fly, will merge with wild birds, and gradually learn to forage and live on their own. Wild vultures can chaperon their transit to freedom and self-reliance,” said Dr Vibhu Prakash, who heads this pioneering project.
Union environment and forest minister Prakash Javadekar was scheduled to visit the centre on January 22 to release a captive griffon vulture with wing tags. Griffons have not been captive bred at the centre but were rescued from the wilderness. Scientists hoped to track this griffon to test the waters before they release captive bred vultures into the wilderness. However, Dr Prakash says the minister’s visit got cancelled.
From a population estimated at four crore in 1980s, Indian vultures suffered a catastrophic decline and numbered a lakh in 2008. The Union government’s vulture action plan envisages the release into the wilderness of 600 pairs of three criticallyendangered vulture species in the decade following the first successful full release.