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Govt should improve health infrastructure to ensure access to quality medicines rather than controlling drug prices: OPPI

Laxmi Yadav, Mumbai
Monday, May 16, 2016, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The national drug price regulator National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA)'s price controlling exercise cannot effectively ensure equitable access to quality medicines unless the government considers improvement in health infrastructure, said Ranjana Smetacek, director general of  Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI).

In a bid to provide relief to the common man, the NPPA had on May 10 fixed ceiling prices of 54 scheduled formulations. The drug pricing regulator had 15 days back fixed ceiling prices of another 54 scheduled formulations.

Price control is neither a viable nor sustainable strategy for increasing access to medicines for patients in the country, said Ranjana Smetacek. “As India aspires to provide quality healthcare for all, the government must consider healthcare access in a holistic manner and ensure improvement on all parameters. The focus must shift from controlling prices to collaboratively advancing a common agenda,” added OPPI director general.

Quoting IMS Health’s 2015 study on ‘Assessing the impact of price controls measures on access to medicines in India’, OPPI director general said that the study concluded that price control has not addressed the challenge of improving access to healthcare. On the contrary, it can be detrimental to internal capability and expertise-building initiatives discourage local talent and counteract the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. The study reiterates that Indian drugs are among the cheapest in the world; both price controlled and non-price controlled drugs are lower by 65 per cent and 25 per cent respectively, than their counterparts in BRICS countries like Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa; and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries.

Talking about the initiatives needed for improving access to medicines for Indian patients, Smetacek said “Our government needs to prioritise healthcare, strengthen healthcare infrastructure and focus on skill development.  An increase in healthcare budget from the current one per cent to at least 2.5 per cent in the next two years and implementation of the promised Universal Health Assurance programme will benefit patients and help to increase access. The government should also work with industry on more effective drug procurement and distribution models.”


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