Cabinet approves new drug pricing policy

HT Correspondent

New Delhi, Nov. 22 -- The Union Cabinet on Thursday brought 348 drugs under its pricing control, with an aim to check rising drug prices, but civil society organizations termed the decision as 'tokenism'.

The Cabinet vetted the decision of a Group of Ministers headed by Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar taken on Wednesday, which tweaked its earlier decision on insistence of Finance minister P Chidambaram.

Chidambaram had objected to earlier GoM decision to base pricing of these 348 drugs on basis of weighted price of drugs having more than 1% share in the market.

Instead of weighted price, the GoM decided for simple average price of drugs having more than 1% of the market share.

The decision, the government estimates, would result in drop in prices of around 60% of these drugs but civil society organization, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan said the decision would more or less 'legitimize' the current 'exorbitant' high prices of essential drugs.

Changing the formula would mean that a high blood pressure tablet atenolol will cost Rs. 38.5 in simple average formula as against Rs. 51 under the weighted average formula. The medicine would have cost Rs. 8, if the government had adopted cost based pricing, the NGO said.

The policy is expected to come under Supreme Court scanner on November 27, when the apex court hears a public interest litigation on pricing of essential drugs.

Climate Change

The Cabinet also decided that India should seek second commitment period for Kyoto Protocol, an international instrument to check rising carbon emissions, that ends on this December 31.

The United Nations conference on climate change at Doha, Qatar, later this month, would be discussing future of Kyoto Protocol amid stiff resistance from western world, especially European Union.

While India and China want the protocol to be extended in its present form, the European Union is insisting on several changes to push emerging economies to come under ambit of carbon mitigation regime.

The protocol provides for mandatory emission reduction targets for rich countries and voluntary mitigation actions for the developing world.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.