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Punjab caps price of buprenorphine at Rs7 per tablet

The move is aimed at providing monetary relief to drug addicts undergoing treatment at private centres, which charge them Rs 40 to 50 per tablet
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By Ravinder Vasudeva, Chandigarh
PUBLISHED ON NOV 04, 2019 11:15 PM IST

In a major crackdown on profiteering by private de-addiction centres in the state, the Punjab government on Friday ordered the regulation of prices of the anti-drug medication buprenorphine. It is now illegal to sell the medicine for more than Rs 7 per tablet in the state.

The move is aimed at providing monetary relief to drug addicts undergoing treatment at private centres, which charge them Rs 40 to 50 per tablet. The Punjab health department buys this medicine through tendering at the cost of Rs 3.8 per tablet, and is provided free of cost at 35 government–run de–addiction centres and 181 outpatient opioid assistance treatment (OOAT) centres.

“Action will be taken against those who sell buprenorphine for more than Rs 7 for a tablet in Punjab. If any centre runs out of medicine,the government will provide it at Rs 6 per tablet,” said an official privy to the orders. He said the government was compelled to regulate the supply of bupreonorphine after getting a series of complaints against private centres for fleecing patients by charging exorbitant rates for the medication.

The de-addiction centres and some manufacturers have developed a nexus over the prescription and sale of bupreonorphine. A patient is ordinary circumstances is prescribed two tablets of buprenorphine daily. With around 96 private de-addiction centres in the state treating more than 50,000 patients, the sale of bupreonorphine at higher rates brings in huge cash. The department wrote to deputy commissioners and civil surgeons, highlighting the malpractice, but to little avail.

“The higher cost of the medicine at private centres is a drain on the pockets of patients who have already lost their assets due to their addiction of heroin,” said the officer who is advocating the regulation medicine prices.

Private de-addiction centres claim their medicine is costlier as the quality is ‘far better’ than the government supply. However, the Monday’s orders say, that firms manufacturing medicine for Punjab government also supplies medicine to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and PGIMR. When Punjab Drug Authority tested some samples of medicine sold by private centres, the tablets failed to live up to their claim.

Notably, the department was also under pressure to not regulate the price of this medicine due to the clout enjoyed by wealthy owners of private centres, said an official.

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