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Medical and sales representatives’ union demands control on medicine prices

FROM A CORRESPONDENT

JORHAT, Feb 3: Activists of Centre of Medical and Sales Representatives’ Union, Northeast Region, organized a protest meet and rally in Jorhat town on Friday in support of various demands.

The organization demanded the governments, both in Delhi and Dispur, to control the prices of all medicines and medical devices on the basis of manufacturing cost, to provide medicine and other medical devices as tax-free commodity, to impose restriction on Foreign Direct Investment in pharma industry, to save public sector drug and vaccine units, to bring legislation for imposing mandatory rules on ethical code of pharmaceutical marketing with provision of prosecution for the erring companies and to stop online sale of medicine.

The activists took out a protest rally in Jorhat and held protest meets at several places in the town. They said the price of medicines and medical devices like pace makers, stents and implants were going up every day. The common people of the country are already tremendously burdened by the price rise of all essential commodities, including food grains. Spiraling price of medicines is further pushing them to a disastrous situation.

The Central Government, despite having authority to check the medicine prices, literally does nothing, rather lets the manufactures to have a free hand. Through Drug Price Control Order, 2013, the Central Government has fixed the ceiling price of medicines taking average prices of brands available in the market, without considering the cost price.

They also said that instead of bringing down the high price, by fixing the ceiling price the government, in other words legitimized the increased price of medicines with a provision of 10 per cent annual increase by manufactures. Further, next to petroleum price, there are multiple taxes at different levels which have cascading effect on rise in medicine prices.

Moreover, the government has imposed excise duty, which was levied earlier on cost price, on maximum retail price (MRP), thereby making medicines further costlier.

Citing some examples in a statement, the activists said drugs like Amlodopine 5mg, which is a drug for hypertension, is having manufacturing cost of Rs. 3.18 for 15 tabs and the MRP of the drug is Rs. 43.90, Amoxyclav, an antibiotic, has MRP Rs. 144 for 6 tabs but the manufacturing cost is Rs 26.60. Excise duty on MRP means more the MRP, more is the revenue generation of government and more profit to the manufactures but the fil victims are the helpless ailing poor Indians! Now the Central Government is going to impose GST. Though how the GST will impact the prices of medicines has not been clarified by the government till now, but in all probability it will definitely have impact on medicines prices too.

They further said since the last two-and-half decades, there has been a shifting of the direction of the government’s vision on health-related issues of the people. There is no space for the ailing people of the country in the task sheet of the government. On the contrary, they have kept more space for the corporates and their associates. India is now going back to the pre-independence stage and the country is gradually becoming dependant on costly patented medicines in diseases like cancer, kidney, diabetes, heart and brain. Since the ‘restriction of foreign investment’ in pharmaceutical sector has been removed and the Central Government is inviting foreign drug companies allowing 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in this sector, it is not only endangering self-sufficiency achieved by the country so far, but also paving the way for the MNCs to flood the Indian market with their high-priced patented products and thus to force the Indian population to purchase costly patented brands only, said activists of the organization.

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Ankur Kalita