Union Minister Ananth Kumar said on Monday that Drugs Prices Control Order will be amended in the next 15 days to enable the regulator National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) to fix prices of about 350 medicines whose market data is not available.
Addressing the foundation day of the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), the Chemicals and Fertiliser Minister said the prices of nearly 900 medicines have been fixed under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, (DPCO) 2013 -- resulting in a saving of about Rs 5,000 crore to consumers.
The pricing of another 368 new formulations has also been fixed, he added.
"For about 350 medicines which are under the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) we are not getting any market data. To bring them under the price control, we need to tweak the DPCO. In next 15 days, we are going to make the amendment to empower the NPPA," Kumar said.
He said the government would not be a "mute spectator" and will regulate the prices of these 350 items as well.
The minister further said the NPPA would fix the prices of all the remaining medicines in NLEM in a couple of months.
Calling pharma as the 'sunrise industry' which is growing at a rapid pace, Kumar said the size of the Indian pharma industry is likely to cross USD 50 billion in the next three years from USD 35 billion in 2015.
He noted that 100 per cent FDI has been allowed in pharma sectors, including brownfield projects.
In order to make medicines available at an affordable price, the minister said the government is targeting to open 3,000 Jan Aushadhi stores across the country. At present, there are over 400 stores.
Expressing concerns over the low consumption of medicines by people living below the poverty line, Kumar said there is a need for the NPPA to intervene and regulate the market to make essential drugs affordable to poor as well as producing and making generic drugs available to them.
Kumar also launched a new mobile app 'Pharma Sahi Daam' that will help customers to know the price of medicines fixed by the NPPA. The minister expects this new initiative to be a huge success.
The minister also pitched for making a separate ministry for the pharma sector. He would also request the Prime Minister to declare August 29, the foundation day of NPPA, as 'Rashtriya Jan Aushadhi Divas'.
Emphasising on making the Indian pharma sector globally competitive, Kumar said the government is developing pharma parks and medical devices parks which will reduce the production cost.
Earlier, NPPA Chairman Bhupendra Singh demanded that the DPCO should be amended to fix prices of those 350 medicines whose market data was not available. "There is a need to have relook in DPCO, 2013. Industry requirement is changing and there are many issues which are not taken care in DPCO".
He said the pharma sector is growing at an average of 15 per cent and has touched nearly USD 35 billion in 2015.
"There has been growth in this sector along with necessary regulations," he said, adding that there is no contradiction between growth and regulation.
Stating that the pricing method adopted by the NPPA is transparent, Singh invited industry to go for settlement in many pending cases.
Sudhansh Pant, Joint Secretary (Pharma), said the price control mechanism is one of the tols to make medicines affordable.
Pant asked the Health Ministry to allow pharmacist of Jan Aushadhi stores to substitute branded medicines by generic medicines.
He said the department is working on another mobile app that would give generic equivalent of branded medicines.