Ensuring ‘health outcomes’ based drugs prescriptions will be more beneficial for the patients in India than just ‘price control’ of drugs

Currently the global pharmaceutical market is undergoing a metamorphosis. The concept of ‘evidence-based medicine’ is gaining ground in the developed markets of the world, making the pharmaceutical companies generate requisite ‘health outcomes’ data using similar or equivalent products. Cost of incremental value that a product will deliver is of key significance. Some independent organizations like, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)in the UK have taken a leading role in this matter.Global pharmaceutical companies using more ‘health outcomes’ data to set pricing strategies:In early 2009, reported agreements between Sanofi-Aventis, Procter & Gamble and Health Alliance as well as Merck and Cigna vindicate this point. These agreements signify a major shift in the global pharmaceutical industry’s approach to gathering and using ‘health outcomes’ data

In the Sanofi-Aventis/Procter & Gamble-Health Alliance agreement, the concerned companies agreed to reimburse health insurance companies expenses incurred for patients suffering from non-spinal bone fracture while undergoing treatment with their drug Actonel.

In the Merck/Cigna agreement, Cigna will have the flexibility to price two diabetes drugs based on ‘health outcomes’ data.

‘Outcomes-based’ pricing strategies are expected to become the order of the day, in not too distant future, all over the world.

The ground realities in India:

Medicines constitute a significant cost component of modern healthcare systems, across the world. In India, overall healthcare system is fundamentally different from many other countries, even China. In most of those countries around 80% of expenses towards healthcare including medicines are reimbursed either by the Governments or through health insurance or similar mechanisms. However, in India situation is just the reverse, about 80% of overall healthcare costs including medicines are private or out of pocket expenses incurred by the individuals/families.

Since 1970, the Government of India (GoI) has been adopting various regulatory measures like cost based price control and price monitoring to make medicines affordable to the common man. For those products, which are patented in India, it has now been reported that GoI is mulling the approach of price negotiation with the respective companies.

However, we should keep in mind that making drugs just affordable in India, where about 65% of population does not have access to modern medicines, is indeed not a core determinant of either healthcare value or proven health outcomes or both.

Cost-effective ‘health outcomes’ based doctors’ prescriptions are more important:

Spending on medicines can be considered as an investment made by the patients to improve their health. To maximize benefits from such spending will require avoidance of products, which will not be effective and the use of lowest cost option with comparable ‘health outcomes’.

For this reason many countries have started engaging the regulatory authorities to come out with head to head clinical comparison of similar or equivalent drugs keeping ultimate ‘health outcomes’ of patients in mind. A day may come in India when the regulatory authorities will also concentrate on ‘outcomes-based’ pricing. However, in Indian context these appear to be very early days.

Till then…

1. Get Standard Treatment Guidelines (STG) prepared for the diseases more prevalent in India, based on, among other data, ‘health outcomes’ studies.

2. Put the STG in place for all government establishments and private hospitals to start with.

3. Gradually extend STG in private medical practices.

4. Make implementation of STG a regulatory requirement.

Thus we need to discuss first what these STGs are.

Standard Treatment Guidelines (STG):

STG is usually defined as a systematically developed statement designed to assist practitioners and patients in making decisions about appropriate cost-effective treatment for specific disease areas.

For each disease area, the treatment should include “the name, dosage form, strength, average dose (paediatric and adult), number of doses per day, and number of days of treatment.” STG also includes specific referral criteria from a lower to a higher level of the diagnostic and treatment requirements.

For a developing country like India formulation of STGs will ensure cost-effective healthcare benefits to a vast majority of population.

In India STGs have already been developed for some diseases by the experts in those areas. These are based on review of current published scientific evidence towards acceptable way forward in diagnosis, management and prevention of various disease conditions

STGs, therefore will provide:

- Standardized guidance to practitioners.
- Cost-effective ‘health outcomes’ based services.

GoI should encourage the medical professionals/institutions to lay more emphasis and refer to such ‘heath-outcomes’ based evidences while prescribing medicines. This will ensure more cost effective ‘health outcomes’ for their patients.


Such an approach for drug usage will help both the doctors and the patients, significantly, to contain the cost of treatment in general and the cost of medicines in particular. Encouraging and implementing ‘health outcomes’ based medicines prescription in India will require, above all, a change in the mindset of all concerned. The use of an expensive drug with no significant improvement in ‘health outcomes’ should be avoided by the prescribers, initially through self regulation and if required through an appropriate regulation.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.

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