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Millennium Post

Medicine prices need regulation

It is extremely unfortunate that affordable medical care is still a distant dream for the majority of our people. Latest reports suggest that more than 38 million people, despite earning moderate incomes, tend to slip below the poverty line because of rising medical expenses, of which almost 70 per cent is spent on buying costly life-saving drugs. In fact, the drug price control order (DPCO) 2013, an important and much-awaited legislation to bring prices of medicines under regulation, leaves out almost 80 per cent of the medicines that are currently in the market. Of these, most are crucial life-saving drugs related to Indian disease profile, thereby making the hype around this upcoming law next to redundant. Although the government had been directed by the Supreme Court as far back as 2003 to formulate proper criteria to identify essential life-saving drugs in order to bring them under price control and state legislation, the DPCO came only in May 2013 and that too in a diminished avatar. The DPCO, by its own admission, wouldn’t be regulating more than 18 per cent of the market drugs, and would be pretty much toothless in curbing the malpractices in the pharmaceutical sector that is being plagued by the big pharma lobby.

Even though the Supreme Court held earlier this year that cumulative patenting in important cancer drugs will be disallowed and brownfield research must allow the generic drugs to remain so that the less fortunate among us get their due healthcare services, the DPCO, in its present form, will not do much to bring in further reforms in the healthcare sector. For example, drugs to cure difficult diseases such as TB, cancer or treat HIV/AIDS, hepatitis must be made widely available and affordable so that the poor do not end up spending their meager incomes trying to get well. Developing economies need subsidisation of essential medicines and despite putting forward this idea in global forums, India has been lagging behind in implementing  it back home.
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