The Game Changers in 2012 and A Crystal Gazing into 2013

Wish You and Your Dear Ones Best of Health, Happiness, Success and Prosperity in The Brand New Year.

Welcome 2013

 The Global Pharmaceutical Industry (GPI), by and large, used to be considered as ‘recession-proof’ for various valid reasons. However, the waves of ‘global economic meltdown’ since last several years prompted the rating service Moody to downgrade its outlook to ‘Negative’ in 2007.

However, on September 24, 2012 the same rating service upgraded the outlook of the GPI to ‘Stable’ from “Negative,” indicating subsiding impact of the wave of drug patent expiration, come 2013.

Various other sources also vindicate that the GPI has in fact now bottomed-out. Available data from IMS Health estimates that the industry will grow from US$ 956 billion in 2011 to around US$ 1004 billion by end 2012 with a growth of approximately 5 percent driven mainly by:

-      Cost optimization

-      Higher  disease prevalence across the world

-      Increasing per capita income

The United States continue to maintain its top slot in the industry followed by the European Union and Japan.

All may not be hunky-dory in the GPI just yet, nevertheless 2013 does point towards some early signs of revival after a very uncertain period, prompting a paradigm shift, especially in the mind-set of the global players. This emerging trend could well form a separate topic of discussion altogether in some other time.

Buoyancy in India:

Back home in India the situation is quite different. The Indian Pharmaceutical Industry (IPI) still remains recession-proof. The market buoyancy continued as ‘PharmaTrac India’ reported a turnover of the domestic pharmaceutical market at around US$ 12.6 billion growing over 15 percent annually.

In this article I shall focus on the domestic pharmaceutical market of India.

The Game Changers of 2012:

Looking back, during the year 2012 the ‘Top Five Game Changers’ for the Indian Pharmaceutical Market (IPM), in my opinion, are as follows:

1. A DIFFERENT ‘Drug Policy’ after 10 years:

The ‘National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy 2012 (NPPP 2012)’ heralds a paradigm shift in the pharmaceutical price control regime of India for the years ahead with a switch from the ‘Cost Based Pricing CBP)’ methodology to ‘Market Based Pricing (MBP)’ and also in its ‘National List of Essential Medicines 2011 (NLEM 2011)’ based span of price control.

The industry has already articulated, though the new policy will make an immediate and significant adverse financial impact on them, market based pricing is directionally prudent for all in the longer term. They feel that MBP is expected to help improving both affordability and availability of medicines.

Such a policy, some stakeholders believe, along with the Government initiative to make essential medicines available free of cost through public hospitals and health centers will benefit all sections of the society, giving a boost to overall consumption of pharmaceutical products in India. It is also good to note that the new policy promises price control exemptions for patented drugs and products with NDDS developed in India through indigenous R&D.

NPPP 2012, is expected to be a game changer for the industry by many, as it will help bringing more stability in the pharma pricing regulation system of India.

However, there is a flip side to this story.

All stakeholders are not equally happy with the NPPP 2012.

In this context, it is worth noting that in an ongoing Public Interest Litigation before the Supreme Court by ‘All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN)’, the petitioner has already drawn the attention of the Court to their ‘Interim Application’ challenging the NPPP 2012 by stating that the ‘policy finalized by the Government will in effect do away with the very notion of price controls’. In response the apex court reportedly had observed that it will consider the averments of AIDAN in the next hearing of January 15, 2013, once the printed Gazette Notification is put on record before the Court by the Government.

2. First ever grant of Compulsory License in India:

On March 12, 2012, Indian Patent Office (IPO), in its landmark ruling, granted its first ever Compulsory License (CL) for Bayer’s patented kidney and liver cancer drug Nexavar (Sorafenib), to the generic pharma player Natco, broadly citing the following reasons:

  • Reasonable requirements of public under Section 84 have not been satisfied.
  • The Patented Drug was not available to the public at a reasonably affordable price as per Section 84 (1) (b).
  • Patented invention is not worked in the territory of India as per Section 84 (1) (c)

The 62 page order of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Mark (CGPDTM) granted the CL to Natco for the rest of patent life of sorafenib in India at the high end of the UNDP 2001 royalty guidelines at 6 percent.

Though the research based pharmaceutical industry across the world expressed its deep disappointment and anguish over the judgment, many experts and NGOs from different parts of the globe, on the contrary, have reportedly hailed this order as a game changer to improve access to high-priced patented medicines in the country with a firm conviction that the ‘Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)’ and ‘Patients’ Access Issues’ can not tread different paths. They have reportedly opined that CGPDTM has set a right precedence by granting a CL for an exceptionally high-priced sorafenib, which will ensure, in the times to come, that “patent monopolies are kept limited, especially when the patented products are not ‘reasonably affordable’, as stated in the statute”.

Many people, therefore, envisage that if responsible pricing strategy for patented medicines is not followed in India even after the grant of first ever CL by the IPO, one could  well expect other generic players applying for CL mainly for the imported high priced patented medicines purely as a business strategy, but citing the reason of improving patients’ access in the country.

3. First ever Guidelines for Biosimilar Drugs in India: 

Across the world, biologic drugs have a successful record in treating many life threatening and other complicated ailments. Expiration of product patents of the first major group of originators’ biologic molecules has led to the development of products that are designed to be ‘similar’ to the originators’ products, as it is virtually impossible to replicate any protein substances, unlike the ‘small molecule’ drugs. These are ‘Biosimilar Drugs’, which rely, in part, on prior information obtained from the innovators’ products and demonstration of similarity with the originator’s molecule based on detailed and comprehensive product characterization, for their marketing approval.

India has the potential to become one of the key players in the development and manufacture of biosimilar drugs, not only to serve the needs of the local population, but also for export to large developed markets. However, for this dream to materialize, a science-driven ‘Biosimilar Guidelines’ are absolutely necessary. These guidelines provide a regulatory framework or pathway to ensure that ‘Biosimilar Drugs’ are of good quality and demonstrably similar in efficacy, safety and immunogenicity to the original reference products.

Considerable developments have occurred across the globe, in the scientific and regulatory understanding of biosimilar drugs. Nearly all developed nations and many developing countries have now defined appropriate regulatory framework for the same. However, due to lack of such guidelines in India, until recently, there have been instances of so called ‘biosimilar drugs’ being approved for marketing, reportedly with sub-optimal testing and dossiers, thereby putting into question product quality, comparability and patient safety.

Under this back-drop, the need for such a regulatory framework and comprehensive guidelines is even greater in India, mainly in the light of sub-optimal pharmacovigilance system in the country, besides other reasons.

Keeping these issues in view, the Ministries of Health & Family Welfare and the Science and Technology released India’s first “Guidelines on Similar Biologics: Regulatory Requirements for Marketing Authorization in India” in 2012. These Guidelines have been made operational effective September 15, 2012.

Long awaited new ‘Biosimilar Guidelines’ of India, demonstrating an overall similarity in the philosophy and approach with the those in the U.S and Europe, though a belated move by the Government, but certainly yet another game changer of 2012.

I reckon, this critical step will help ‘Made in India’ biosimilar drugs availing opportunities in the emerging biosimilar markets of the world including Europe and America.

4. Increase in National Health Expenditure Budget from 1% to 2.5% of GDP:

This decision of the Government in 2012 could help paving the way to provide basic healthcare services to all citizens of India through “Universal Health Coverage (UHC)”, which has the vast potential to be another game changer in the healthcare space of India.

It is envisaged that UHC will ensure guaranteed access to essential health services for every citizen of the country, including cashless in-patient and out-patient treatment for primary, secondary and tertiary care. All these services will be available to the patients absolutely free of any cost.

Under UHC all citizens of India will be free to choose between Public Sector facilities and ‘contracted-in’ Private Providers for healthcare services. It is envisaged that people would be free to supplement the free of cost healthcare services offered under UHC by opting to pay ‘out of pocket’ or going for private health insurance schemes.

Thus, UHC, I reckon, will also be able to address simultaneously the critical issue of high ‘out of pocket’ healthcare expenses of the common citizens and at the same time increase consumption of overall healthcare, giving a boost to the growth of the pharma industry together with other healthcare sectors.

Implemented sooner, ignoring motivated stalling tactics by the vested interests, if any, could usher-in the dawn of a new healthcare reform process in India for all.

5. Announcement of Distribution of Essential Drugs free of cost to all, from Government Hospitals and Dispensaries:

In July 2012 the Government of India took a landmark ‘Public Healthcare’ related initiative to provide unbranded generic formulations of all essential drugs, featuring in the ‘National List of Essential Medicines 2011’, free of cost to all patients, from the public hospitals and dispensaries across the country.

This social sector project was expected to roll out, as reported in the media, from October/November 2012 with a cost of around US$ 5 billion during the 12th Five Year Plan period of the country. Considering medicines account for around 70% of the total ‘Out of Pocket’ expenses, this particular initiative is expected to be yet another game changer to benefit, especially the poorer patients of the society.

This new scheme, I reckon, has also the potential to hasten the overall growth of the pharmaceutical industry, as poor patients who could not afford will now have access to essential medicines. On the other hand, rapidly growing middle class population will continue to favor branded generic drugs prescribed by the doctors at the private hospitals and clinics.

Some people are apprehending that generic drug makers will have brighter days as the project starts rolling on. This apprehension is based on the assumption that large branded generic players will be unable to take part in this big ticket drug procurement process of the Government, which seems to be imaginary.

However, in my view, it could well be a win-win situation for all types of players in the industry, where both the generic-generic and branded-generic businesses will continue to grow simultaneously.

That said procedural delays and drug quality issues, while procuring cheaper generics, may pose to be a great challenge for the Government to ensure speedier implementation of this project. Drug regulatory and law enforcing authorities will require to be extremely vigilant to ensure that while sourcing cheaper generic drugs, “Public health and safety” due to quality issues do not get compromised in any way.

A Crystal Gazing into 2013:

While Crystal Gazing into 2013, following seven possible developments come to the top of my mind:

  1. New Drug Policy may get caught in Public Interest Litigation (PIL).
  2. UHC related pilot projects may start coming up.
  3. More stringent regulatory requirements for Clinical Trials, Product Marketing approvals, Pricing of Patented Medicines and Ethical Marketing practices may come into in-force.
  4. Along with public investments more private initiatives, both global and local, are expected in the healthcare infrastructure space including in e-healthcare.
  5. Domestics Pharma Companies could challenge increasing number of patents and may also apply for Compulsory Licenses following the set precedence of 2012.
  6. The Supreme Court judgment on Glivec case could bring more clarity in ‘incremental innovation’ in general and the Section 3(d) in particular.
  7. More consolidation within the pharmaceutical industry may take place with valuation still remaining high.


The year 2012, especially for the pharmaceutical industry in India, was indeed eventful. The ‘Top Five’ that I have picked-up out of various interesting developments during the year, could in many ways be the ‘Game Changers’ for the industry during the years ahead.

Key measures, both in the public and private space, be it fostering R&D or improving access to healthcare for the general population, fell well short of adequate even in 2012.

My ‘Crystal Gazing into 2013’, if comes true, will make the year even more eventful in India. The new year could signal herald of yet another interesting  paradigm. A paradigm that may churn quite different sets of rapidly evolving issues requiring more innovative honed skill-sets for their speedy redressal, as the time keeps moving on.

By: Tapan J 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 and also do not contribute to any other blog or website with the same article that I post in this website. Any such act of reproducing my articles, which I write in my personal capacity, in other blogs or websites by anyone is unauthorized and prohibited.


The New Drug Policy of India enters into the final lap of a Marathon Run

Final working out and thereafter announcement of much awaited and long overdue the new ‘Drug Policy’ of India has now entered into a very interesting stage. This is mainly because of the unique combination of the following three key reasons:

1. 2002 Drug Policy was challenged in the Karnataka High Court, which by its order dated November 12, 2002 issued stay on the implementation of the Policy. This order was challenged by the Government in the Supreme Court, which vacated the stay vide its order dated March 10, 2003 but ordered as follows: “We suspend the operation of the order to the extent it directs that the Policy dated 15.2.2002 shall not be implemented. However we direct that the petitioner shall consider and formulate appropriate criteria for ensuring essential and lifesaving drugs not to fall out of the price control and further directed to review drugs, which are essential and lifesaving in nature till 2nd May, 2003”.

2. A live court case on the new draft ‘Drug Policy’ with the ‘essentiality criteria’ for price control is pending before the Supreme Court of India with its next hearing scheduled in the last week of July 2012. In this court case an independent network of several ‘Non-Government Organizations (NGOs)’ known as ‘All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN)’ is arguing against the ‘flawed’ draft ‘National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy 2011 (NPPP 2011)’, mainly on the following grounds:

  • ‘Market Based Pricing (MBP)’ methodology calculated on the ‘Weighted Average Price (WAP)’ of top three brands, as specified in the ‘Draft NPPP 2011’ would not only lead to increase in the prices of medicines, but also legitimize higher drug prices.
  • To keep the drug prices under check effectively, the ‘Ceiling Prices (CP)’ of Medicines should be based on ‘Cost based Pricing (CBP)’ model rather than MBP.
  • Adequate control mechanism is lacking in the NPPP 2011 to prevent the manufacturer from avoiding price control by tweaking with the formulations featuring in the National list of Essential Medicine 2011 (NLEM 2011).

3. In this scenario, a Group of Ministers (GoM) of the Union Cabinet has started deliberating on this issue since April 25, 2012 taking all key stakeholders on board to give its recommendations to the Union Cabinet on the scope, form, structure and the basic content of the new Drug Policy.

The bone of contentions:

The methodology and the span of price control of the draft NPPP 2011 have still remained the key bone of contentions for the new ‘Drug Policy’ of India. Suggested three key methodologies: From the responses received on the draft NPPP 2011, it appears that following three are the  suggested key methodologies to arrive at the CP of price controlled NLEM 2011 formulations:

  • Cost Based Pricing
  • Market based pricing

-  WAP of top 3 brands             -  WAP of bottom 3 brands

  • The formula suggested by the Economic Advisory Council of the Prime Minister of lesser of (i) the price paid by the median consumer + 25% and (ii) price paid by the 80th percentile consumer.

ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR AND AGAINST OF EACH: A. Cost based Pricing: Besides AIDAN, other reported key supporters of the CBP are the Ministry of Health and All India Chemists Associations. ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR: The current drug price control regime (DPCO 1995) is based on cost-plus pricing model, where Maximum Retail Prices (MRPs) of price controlled formulations are worked out as per the formula given in ‘para 7’ of DPCO, 1995 as follows: R.P. = [M.C. +C.C. +P.M. +P.C.] x [1+MAPE/100] +E.D. Where,

  • R.P:  Retail price
  • M.C:  Material cost, including process loss
  • C. C.: Conversion cost
  • P.M: Packing material
  • P.C: Packing Charges
  • MAPE : Maximum Allowable Post manufacturing Expenses of 100 percent
  • E.D.: Excise duty

The proponents of CBP believe that it is:

  • Transparent
  • Most beneficial to the patients
  • Fair, with a decent profit margin allocation for the manufacturers

ARGUMENTS AGAINST: Many others do not believe in CBP. They argue that price-inflation of non-price controlled drugs is much less than the price-controlled ones, which clearly vindicates that market competition works better than price control of drugs and thus is more beneficial to the patients. The following table shows the trend of general inflation against the drug price inflation from 1992 to 2011 period, as follows:

Type of Inflation

Inflation (in Index)

1. General Inflation


2. Price-controlled molecules


3. Non Price-Controlled Molecules


(Source: IMS data, RBI CPI average yearly inflation) This school of thought quotes the example of discontinuation of manufacturing in India 29 out of 74 Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) under DPCO 1995 due to financial non-viability on account of CBP. Moreover, CBP is considered by them as a process, which is:

  • Intrusive
  • Lacking in transparency
  • Discretionary
  • Discouraging for innovation, high quality & efficiency
  • Not followed by any major country in the world
  • Not supported by even WHO. It says other countries are moving away from Indian type of CBP

B. Market Based Pricing (MBP): MBP in general is considered by its proponents as a system which is:

  • Transparent
  • Non-Discretionary
  • Encourages growth & investment
  • Rewards innovation
  • Promotes efficiency

The two variants of MBP under discussion are:

- WAP of top 3 brands

- WAP of bottom 3 brands


1. WAP of top 3 brands:

  • It is a transparent system and will reduce the prices of medicines
  • With adequate checks and balances in place the method will not lead to increase in prices because of the following reasons:

- All price increases are subject to WPI              – Market competition will not permit any price increases              – Companies in low-price segments will create pressure to reduce prices further

2. WAP of bottom 3 brands: This group argues that instead of WAP of top 3 brands, if the same for the bottom three brands is considered, ceiling prices will come down very significantly, benefiting patients much more than what WAP of top three brands will do.


1. WAP of top three brands:

  • Would lead to overall increase in the prices of many medicines
  • Below ceiling price brands would raise their price upto the ceiling price level immediately
  • Would legitimize high drug prices

2. WAP of bottom 3 brands:

  • Not representative of the market, as only the brands with a low market presence will be considered for WAP calculations
  • The Bottom 3 priced brands factor in only ~17% of the market
  • Likely to have an adverse overall impact on patients as many small brands with lowest acceptable quality standards will be considered for WAP calculations, which may ultimately push high quality formulations out of the market.

C. Formula suggested by EAC of the Prime Minister: ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR:

Will ensures affordable drug prices for the patients by:

  • Encouraging and rewarding high market competition
  • Discouraging monopolistic or oligopolistic market situation


  • EAC criteria for insufficient competition are based on the 1994 Policy
  • The situation is different today as the market has grown 9 times since then
  • The number of brands tends to be low in lower volume turnover molecule segments mainly due to low disease prevalence. Thus bringing these molecules under CBP will be irrational
  • Instead of implementing CBP where lesser number of brands exists in many generic segments, EAC formula should encourage competition even in these lower value turnover molecule segments to bring the prices further down

That said, ‘Drug Price’ has always remained one of the critical factors to ensure greater access to medicines, especially in the developing economies like India, where predominantly individuals are the payors. This point has also been widely accepted by the international community, except perhaps by the diehard ‘self-serving’ vested interests. Important Points to Ponder:

A. ‘Drug Price’ control alone can not improve access to medicines significantly:

To improve access to medicines, even the Governments in countries like Germany, Spain, UK, Korea and China have recently mulled strict price control measures in their respective countries. However, it is important to note and as we have seen above, though the drug prices are indeed one of the critical factors to improve access to modern medicines, there is a need to augment other healthcare access related initiatives in tandem for a holistic approach.

In India, we have witnessed through almost the past four decades that drug price control alone  could not improve access to modern medicines for the common man very significantly, especially in the current socioeconomic and healthcare environment of the country.

B. Taming drug price inflation only has not helped improving access to medicines:

It is quite clear from the following table that food prices impact health more than medicine costs :


Pharma Price Increases

Food Inflation










Source: CMIE Exploring a practical approach: Considering pros and cons of the key methodologies of price control of formulations featuring in NLEM 2011, as I had written in this blog in April 2, 2012, I would like to reemphasize that a middle path with a win-win strategy to resolve this deadlock effectively would be in the best interest of both patients and the industry alike, in the current situation. The middle path, I reckon, may be explored as follows:

  1. Calculate ‘Weighted Average Price’ for each formulation based on prices of all brands – high, medium and low, applying some realistic exclusion criteria.
  2. When inclusion criteria for price control in the draft NPPP 2011 is ‘essentiality’ of drugs, it sounds quite logical that price control should be restricted to NLEM 2011 only.
  3. Enough non-price control checks and balances to be put in place to ensure proper availability of NLEM 2011 drugs for the common man and avoidance of any possible situation of shortages for such drugs.


Conforming to the directive of the honorable Supreme Court of India on price control of essential medicines in the country, the GoM should now help resolving the issue of putting in place a robust new National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy, without further delay, taking the key stakeholders on board.

In any case, it has to be a win-win solution both for the patients and the industry alike, paving the way for improving access to modern medicines for the entire population of India, together with other strategic initiatives in this direction. This is absolutely essential, especially when medicines contribute around 72 percent of the total ‘Out of Pocket Expenses’ of the common man of the country.

By: Tapan J 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.

The New Drug Policy is languishing in a labyrinth

Drug Price Control has remained the key feature of all Drug Policies of India, since their inception in early 70’s. Most of these policies continued to remain behind their times consistently, without any exception.

That said, the Drug Policy 1994 and the consequent Drug Price Control Order 1995 (DPCO  ’95) have now become the largest ‘Dinosaur’ of all Drug Policies. However, the most intriguing point though, both these have still been kept operational by the government and the very concept of a new and a more contemporary one is languishing in a labyrinth since over a decade, for reasons of anybody’s guess.

Drug Price Control system in India:

It appears that the drug price control system in India is here to stay, at least in the short to medium term and that too in a seemingly best case scenario.

The key reasons:

As we know, the key reasons of price control for pharmaceuticals in India are the following:

  • To contain cost of medicines, particularly the essential ones, at a reasonably affordable level, which is a very important part of the total healthcare expenditure of the common man.
  • To provide greater access to medicines to all, especially in view of very high  ‘out of pocket expenditure’ for health for a vast majority of population in the country.

The economic factors:

Some of the economic factors, which may cause impediments in achieving these objectives are the following:

  • Sub optimal public healthcare infrastructure, leaky delivery system and high cost of  private healthcare services
  • This is fueled by, as stated above, unabated increase in ‘out-of-pocket expenses’ on healthcare in general and medicines in particular at 78 per cent, as compared to 61 per cent in China, 53 per cent in Sri Lanka, 31 percent in Thailand, 29 per cent in Bhutan and 14 per cent in Maldives (Source: The Lancet)
  • High expenses on drugs for outpatient care

Though very important, drug cost alone, however, does not determine quality of access to healthcare.

Global scenario for drug price control:

As per published reports, all 34 developed nations of the world have ‘Universal Health Coverage’ mechanism in place in various different forms, including mandatory medical insurance requirements, to effectively address the issue of high access to healthcare including pharmaceuticals in their respective countries, significantly reducing ‘out of pocket expenses’ towards health.

All these 34 countries belong to ‘Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’, the governments of which, in some way or the other control and regulate drug prices.

The Governments/payors of most of these countries implement the price control measures by playing the role of a dominant market force directly, while negotiating a favorable price from the manufacturers, which are much lower than their equivalent free market prices.

Many other OECD governments set the drug reimbursement prices right at the time of introduction of new drugs through hard negotiation, which are also well below free market prices and acts as the bench mark market prices, in many ways.

In addition to all these mechanisms, the governments in many OECD countries periodically reduce the prices of already marketed drugs quite significantly.

A contrarian view on Drug Price Control:

Some industry experts feel that there is a hidden consequence for the ‘Drug Price Control System’, especially with the cost based one.

The cost based price control as is currently practiced by the government in India compels the pharmaceutical manufacturers to restrict to:

  • Minimum acceptable quality standard rather than maximum possible quality standards for the patients
  • Does not encourage innovation in formulation development like novel galenic formulations for better patient acceptance and compliance
  • Indirectly discourage innovation in product packaging
  • Ceiling Price mechanism does not encourage advanced anti-counterfeit measures for patients’ safety

These experts also feel that adverse consequences of price control will have a significant negative impact on the pharmaceutical players to plough back fund towards R&D projects to meet the unmet needs of the patients and thereby reducing the range of treatments that could be made available to the patients in the years ahead.

What is China doing?

On March 28, 2011 Reuters reported that China had cut the maximum retail price for more than 1,200 types of antibiotics and the drugs for the circulatory system by an average of 21 percent.

It has also been reported that the Chinese Government has put a cap on the prices of about 300 drugs featuring in their ‘National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM).’

Supreme Court directive on ‘Price Control’ of ‘Essential Medicines’:

It is worth noting in this context that in 2003, the Supreme Court of India, while setting aside the Drug Policy 2002 directed the government to work out effective mechanism to bring all essential and life-saving medicines under price control.

HLEG recommends ‘Price Control’ of ‘Essential Medicines’:

Even in its report the ‘High Level Expert Group (HLEG)’ on ‘Universal Health Coverage (UHC)’ in India, set up by the Planning Commission of India under the chairmanship of the well-known medical professional Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, under recommendation no. 3.5.1, postulated price control and price regulation on essential drugs, which is quite in line with the draft National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy 2011 (NPPP 2011).

The HLEG report says:

“We recommend the use of ‘essentiality’ as a criterion and applying price controls on formulations rather than basic drugs. Direct price control applied to formulations, rather than basic drugs, is likely to minimize intra-industry distortion in transactions and prevent a substantial rise in drug prices. It may also be necessary to consider caps on trade margins to rein in drug prices while ensuring reasonable returns to manufacturers and distributors. All therapeutic products should be covered and producers should be prevented from circumventing controls by creating nonstandard combinations. This would also discourage producers from moving away from controlled to non-controlled drugs. At the same time, it is necessary to strengthen Central and State regulatory agencies to effectively perform quality and price control functions.”

Types of drug price regulations in India:

  1. Cost based price control: e.g. as specified in the Drug Price Control Order 1995 (DPCO 95)
  2. Marked based price control: e.g. as was suggested by ‘The Pronab Sen Committee’ in 2005
  3. Price Monitoring with a cap on annual price increase: e.g. as is currently followed by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) for all products which are outside DPCO ’95

The weaknesses of cost based pricing mechanism:

The key criticism of cost based pricing mechanism flows from the following arguments:

  • This system is not followed by any developed or developing countries worth mentioning, which follow drug price control mechanism in any form
  • A Complex, intrusive and inefficient system of pricing medicines
  • Does not consider important variations in the level of GMP standards and the quality of input costs
  • The conversion cost and packing norms are determined through a sample survey of less than one per cent of pharmaceutical manufacturing units

Pronab Sen Committee report – the basis of price control in the draft NPPP 2011:

The draft NPPP 2011 is based on the ‘Recommendations of the Task Force constituted under the Chairmanship of Dr. Pronab Sen to explore issues beyond Price Control to make available Life-saving Drugs at reasonable prices’ to all.

‘Pronab Sen Committee’ suggested the following principles of Price regulation to achieve part of the above objective:

1.       The National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) should form the basis of drugs to be considered for intensive price monitoring, ceiling prices and for imposition of price controls, if necessary.

2.       The government should announce the ceiling price of the drugs contained in the NLEM (other than the drugs procured by hospitals directly and which an individual does not have to purchase from the market) on the basis of the weighted average prices of the top three brands by value of single ingredient formulations prevailing in the market as on 01.04.2005. In cases where there are less than three brands, the weighted average of all the existing brands would be taken. The Org–IMS data set can be used for this purpose initially with a 20 per cent retail margin provided. There is, however, a need to improve the available data coverage, which should be taken up with ORG-IMS or any other data provider.

3.       For drugs which are not reflected in ORG-IMS data, the NPPA should prepare the necessary information based on market data collection.

4.       During the transition period (i.e. till the time ceiling prices are fixed and notified) prices of all essential drugs may be frozen.

5.       The Government should specify the reference product in terms of strength and pack size for each product which would form the basis for price determination. The price ceiling would be specified on a per dosage basis, such as per tablet/per capsule or standard volume of injection. Where syrups and liquids are sold in bottles the ceiling price may be fixed on individual pack size.

6.       Price relaxations may be permitted for non-standard delivery systems, packaging and pack sizes through applications to the negotiations committee, which should become applicable for all similar cases.

7.       In the case of formulations which involve a combination of more than one drug in the NLEM, the ceiling price would be the weighted average of the applicable ceiling prices of its constituents.

8.       For formulations containing a combination of a drug in the NLEM and any other drug, the ceiling price applicable to the essential drug would be made applicable. However, the company would be free to approach the price negotiations committee for a relaxation of the price on the basis of evidence proving superior therapeutic effectiveness for particular disease conditions.

9.       In order to determine the reasonableness of the ceiling prices fixed as above, the prices quoted in bulk procurement by Government and other designated agencies may be examined for use, provided that the system of bulk procurement meets certain minimum prescribed standards. Recognizing that retail distribution has costs not reflected in bulk procurement, a markup of 100 per cent over this reference price is recommended.

10.    NPPA should set up a computer based system which would scan the price data provided by companies against the ceiling prices determined as above and identify formulations which breach the relevant price ceiling. The company manufacturing or marketing such a product would be required to reduce its price or to face penal action.

11.    Companies should be permitted to represent for any price increase on valid grounds, which should then become applicable to the entire class of products.

12.   The NLEM should be revised periodically, say every 5 years, in order to reflect new drugs and significant changes in pattern of drug sales within the therapeutic categories. However till the time the new list is finalized the existing list will continue to be valid for the purpose of price control.

13.   In the case of drugs not contained in the NLEM, intensive monitoring should be carried out of all drugs falling into a pre-specified list of therapeutic categories. Any significant variation in the prices (say above 10 per cent) would be identified for negotiation.

The stakeholders’ comments on NPPP 2011:

About 60 stakeholders have commented by now on the draft NPPP 2011. The views are quite divergent though. It is interesting to note that the new draft pricing policy, in its current form, has been rejected by all key stakeholders, like the Industry, Ministry of Health, Expert Groups, WHO, NGOs and reportedly even by the Economic Advisory Council of the Prime Minister, on quite different grounds.

As widely reported in the media, the pharmaceutical industry, though in favor of the marked based pricing  mechanism, feels that the draft NPPP 2011 will increase the span of drug price control to over 60 per cent of the Indian Pharmaceutical Market (IPM). This means over eight times increase in the span of price control from its current level, making the task unwieldy for even the NPPA.

Majority of other stakeholders including the Ministry of Health, on the contrary, are arguing in favor of cost based price control. They commented that the price control system of the draft policy would give legitimacy to high drug prices in India, leading to increase in the overall prices of medicines. This group feels that the top three brands in majority of cases will be the most expensive ones.

Two interesting observations by the World Health Organization (WHO) on ‘Trade Margin’:

The WHO  in their observations on the draft NPPP 2011 has made the following interesting comments:

  1. “The new price regulation uses a margin of16% to calculate the retail prices. This is a lower margin than currently – based on the market data 1.1 and 3.3 I calculated a current retail margin of 22%. So the new price regulation implies a margin reduction of 6%, alternatively the CP might be set at a 6% lower price than currently is the case.”

If the WHO observation is correct, there is a scope to reduce the price of essential medicines by 6 per cent only through proper regulation of the trade margin.

  1. WHO also comments that IMS data, the basis of all such calculations by the NPPA, has severe limitations as “Their data does not take into account the discounts, rebates and bundling deals and when the data is collected at the level of the wholesaler they estimate the retailer and patient prices”.

If such is the case, what could possibly be the basis of all calculations as captured in the draft NPPP 2011? 

Observation of a distinguished Parliamentarian: 

Dr. Jyoti Mirdha , a Member of the Lower House of the Parliament (Lok Sabha) commented as follows:

“Under this policy the weighted average of three top selling brands will be the ceiling price. There is no logic in restricting the formula to just three brands. Why not five? Why not 10 to arrive at a more representative and reasonable figure? Besides why base on sales figures? In any pricing policy the parameter should be the price. Why not weighted average of 10 least priced brands?”

This could well be a pertinent question.

How to break the logjam now?

Taking on from Dr. Mirdha’s argument , WHO observations and Pronab Sen Committee report, one could possibly try to resolve this logjam by exploring various other available alternatives like for example, the following broad points, to ascertain whether a win-win situation can be created for all through the new drug policy:

  1. What happens if ‘Weighted Average Price’ is calculated based on all brands, instead of top three or bottom three with some exclusion criteria, if required?
  2. When inclusion criteria for price control in the new draft NPPP 2011 is ‘essentiality’ of drugs, it sounds logical that price control should be restricted to National List of Essential Medicines 2011 (NLEM 2011). Only possible extension could perhaps be taking the entire molecule, instead of specified strengths of the same molecule.
  3. Enough non-price control checks and balances to be put in place to ensure proper availability of NLEM 2011 drugs to the common man and avoidance of any possible situation of shortages for such drugs.
  4. As commented by WHO, trade margin should be rationalized, the MRP needs to be reduced accordingly and the consequential benefits to be passed on to the patients.


The issue of the new National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy should be resolved sooner than later and that too by conforming to the directive given by the Supreme Court on essential medicines. At the same time, all the stakeholders must feel comfortable with the new drug policy.

The four points, as mentioned above, are just an illustration for choosing an alternative solution. If it works, let us move on. If it does not, let us search for the pathfinder who can break the decade old labyrinth rather quickly, without losing the way yet again.

However, the bottom-line remains that the solution should be a win-win one, both for the patients and the industry alike, benefiting the healthcare space of the country in the years ahead.

By: Tapan J 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.