New Drug Price Control Order of India: Is it Directionally Right Improving Access to Medicines?

The last Drug Policy of India was announced in 2002, which was subsequently challenged by a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Karnataka High Court on the ground of being inflationary in nature. The Honorable Court by its order dated November 12, 2002 issued a stay on the implementation of the Policy.

This judgment was challenged by the Government in the Supreme Court, which vacated the stay vide its order dated March 10, 2003 and ordered as follows:

“We suspend the operation of the order to the extent it directs that the Policy dated February 15, 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”.

As a result DPCO 1995 continued to remain in operation, pending formulation of a new drug policy as directed by the honorable court.

In the recent years, following a series of protracted judicial and executive activities, the New National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy 2012 (NPPP 2012) came into effect on December 7, 2012. In the new policy the span of price control was changed to all drugs falling under the National List of Essential Medicines 2011 (NLEM 2011) and the price control methodology was modified from the cost-based to market based one. Accordingly the new Drug Price Control Order (DPCO 2013) was notified on May 15, 2013.

However, the matter is still subjudice, as the new policy would require to pass the judicial scrutiny.

In this article, I shall try to explore whether the new DPCO 2013 is directionally right in improving access to medicines for a vast majority of population in the country .

An overview:

As stated above, the new DPCO 2013 has just been notified after an agonizing wait of about 18 years, bringing all 652 formulations under 27 therapeutic segments of the National List of Essential Medicines under price control.

As prescribed in the Drug Policy 2012, in the new DPCO the cost based pricing mechanism has been replaced with a market-based one, where simple average price of all brands with a market share above 1% in their respective segments will be considered.

Only decrease in price and no immediate increase:

Companies selling medicines above the new Ceiling Prices (CP), as will be notified by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) soon, would have to slash prices to conform to the new CP level. However, those selling these scheduled drugs below the ceiling price will not be allowed to raise prices, resulting in significant price reduction of most essential drugs with price increases in none. Prices of all these formulations will be frozen for a year. Although a silver lining is that manufacturers will be permitted an annual increase in the CPs in line with the Wholesale Price Index (WPI).

The span:

The span of DPCO 2013 will cover approximately 18% of US$ 13.6 billion domestic pharmaceutical market. However, the total coverage will increase to around 30%, for a year, after coupling it with existing price controlled medicines, as these will continue with the current prices for a year.

No change in retail margin:

DPCO 2013 continues with the provision of DPCO 1995, fixing margin for the Retailers at 16% of Ceiling Price, excluding Taxes.

Benefit to consumers:

Indian consumers will undoubtedly be the biggest beneficiaries of the new DPCO, as ceiling prices will now be based on roughly 91% of the pharmaceutical market by value, resulting upto 20% price reduction in 60% of the NLEM medicines. The prices of some drugs will fall by even upto 70%.

Overall impact:

In the short-term, Indian pharma market may shrink by around 2.3 per cent on implementation of the new policy, according to an analysis by market research firm AIOCD AWACS. The impact could be more pronounced for multinationals, given their premium pricing strategy for key brands. For the patients, anti-infective, cardio-vascular, gastro-intestinal, dermatology and painkillers would witness relatively steeper drop in prices.

However, despite initial adverse impact, higher volume growth over the next few years may help the pharmaceutical companies to recover and pick-up the growth momentum.

More transparent and less discretionary:

Moreover, the industry reportedly feels that the shift in the methodology of price control from virtually opaque and highly discretionary cost based system to relatively more transparent market based one, is directionally right and more prudent. They point out, even WHO in its feedback to the Department of Pharmaceuticals welcomed the intent to move away from cost-based pricing as it has been abandoned elsewhere.

The drafting of DPCO 2013 also appears to have reduced the discretionary criteria for the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) to bare minimum.

Check on any essential drug going out of market:

DPCO 2013 has tried to prevent any possibility of an essential drug going out of the market without the knowledge of NPPA by incorporating the following provision in the order:

Any manufacturer of scheduled formulation, intending to discontinue any scheduled formulation from the market shall issue a public notice and also intimate the Government in Form-IV of schedule-II of this order in this regard at least six month prior to the intended date of discontinuation and the Government may, in public interest, direct the manufacturer of the scheduled formulation to continue with required level of production or import for a period not exceeding one year, from the intended date of such discontinuation within a period of sixty days of receipt of such intimation.” 

Patented Products:

DPCO 2013 does not include pricing of patented products, as the Department of pharmaceuticals (DoP) has already circulated the report of an internal committee, specially constituted to address this issue, for stakeholders’ comments.

Encourages innovation:

The new DPCO encourages innovation and pharmaceutical R&D offering significant pricing freedom. It states all locally developed new drugs, new drug delivery systems and new manufacturing processes will remain exempted from any price control for a five-year period.


Interestingly, the changes in prices will be effective after 45 days (15 days in the earlier DPCO 1995) from the date of  respective CP notifications. This increased number of days is expected to allow the trade to liquidate stocks with existing prices.

However, the industry feels that its hundred percent implementation at the retail level, even within extended 45 days, for previously sold residual stocks lying in remote locations, could pose a practical problem.

The Government reportedly answers to this apprehension by saying, the provisions and wordings for implementation of new CPs in DPCO 2013 are exactly the same as DPCO 1995. Only change is that the time limit for implementation has been extended from 15 days to 45 days in favor of the industry. Hence, those who implemented DPCO 1995, on the contrary, should find effecting DPCO 2013 changes in the CPs much easier.

Opposite views:

  • Reduction in drug prices with market-based pricing methodology is significantly less than the cost based ones. Hence, consumers will be much less benefitted with the new system.
  • A large section in the industry reportedly does not co-operate with the NPPA in providing details, as required by them, to make the cost based system more transparent.
  • Serious apprehensions have been expressed about the quality of outsourced market data, which will form the basis of CP calculations.

Key challenges:

I reckon, there will be some key challenges in the implementation of DPCO 2013. These are as follows:

  • Accuracy of the outsourced market data based on which Ceiling Prices will be calculated by the NPPA.
  • In case of any gross mistakes, the disputes may get dragged into protracted litigation.
  • Outsourced data will provide details only of around 480 out of 652 NLEM formulations. How will the data for remaining products be obtained and with what level of accuracy?
  • The final verdict of the Supreme Court related to the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the NPPP 2012, based on which DPCO 2013 has been worked out, is yet to come. Any unfavorable decision of the Honorable Court on the subject may push the NPPP  2012 and DPCO 2013 back to square one.


Thus, DPCO 2013 should achieve the objectives of the Government in ensuring essential medicines are available to those who need them most by managing prices in the retail market and balancing industry growth on a longer term perspective. Interestingly, it also encourages indigenous innovation and R&D.

Thus, DPCO 2013, at long last, seems to be a well balanced one.

That said, making drug prices affordable to majority of population in the country is one of most important variables to improve access to medicines. This is an universally accepted fact today, though not an end by itself.

It is worth noting, price control of medicines since the last four decades have certainly been able to make the drug prices in India one of the lowest in the world coupled with intense cut-throat market competition. Unfortunately, this solitary measure is not good enough to improve desirable access to modern medicines for the common man due to various other critical reasons, which we hardly discuss and deliberate upon with as much passion and gusto as price control.

Therefore, industry questions, why despite so many DPCOs and rigorous price control over the last four decades, 47% of hospitalization in rural area and 31% of the same in urban areas are still financed by private loans and selling of assets by individuals?

Others reply with equal zest by saying, the situation could have been even worse without price control of medicines.

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.




Differentiating Seven ‘Ps’ of Marketing-Mix for Health Food Products – A strategic overview

As estimated by Nicholas Hall the health food products market in India is currently around U.S.$ 1.3 Billion with a huge marketing potential. However, the marketing-mix for such groups of health food products will need to be crafted in an innovative way and carefully tailored to suit the need of individual brands, by an astute marketer.
Definition of Health Food Products:In my view, the health food products are those, which have a favorable impact on human health, their physical performance or state of mind. Such products include various types of food substances, dietary supplements with medical benefits and are used mostly for the prevention of various types of diseases.

The global market:

The global market for health food products is projected to be around U.S.$ 190 Billion by 2010 with a CAGR of 6.1% during 2000 – 2010. In 2007 its market size was reported to be U.S.$ 166 Billion.

Categories of health food products:

Before we delve into the space of marketing-mix, let me try to categorize these products under the following six categories:

Functional Foods:

- These are dietary components, which provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition, like
isabgool or psyllium husk, whey proteins, bran or oats

Medicinal Foods:

- These are functional foods with more medicinal value, for e.g. cranberry juice, anti-diabetic/anti-obesity health
bars with added medication etc.


- This category comprises of substances which are foods or part of a food with usually preventive health benefits
like vitamins, minerals, gingko biloba, coenzyme Q10, carnitine, ginseng, garlic, tulsi, kalmegh, brahmi, saffron,
ashwagandha, green tea, karela powder etc.


- These products are like lycopene found in tomatoes or flavanoids in fruits. Such substances usually do not
possess any nutritive value but offer some disease preventive properties.

Ayurvedic and Herbal Medicines:

- These are derived from plants and are used as such or in form of extracts and possess disease preventive

Other health related products are like sports nutrition and various types of organic foods.

Key Drivers:

In my view following are the four key drivers of the health food products market in India:

Consumer awareness:
- Increasing consumer health consciousness will increase the popularity of health food products

Changing lifestyle:
- Incidence of lifestyle diseases like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases has been
increasing with fast changing consumer lifestyle. Moreover, increasing cost of serious medical treatment is
also encouraging people to go for preventive health care.

Ageing population:
- Ageing population in India is expected to contribute significantly to increase the demand for health foods
supplements and functional foods to address various types age related health conditions.

New scientific evidence of various health foods:
- Ongoing scientific research studies to establish health benefits of various food substances and dietary
supplements will help expanding the ambit health food products at a faster speed.

Key challenges for Herbal Food Products:

Herbal products taken from two or more different sources may not necessarily have the same potency, leading to concerns of batch to batch product quality variations in terms of efficacy, which depends on the potency of the material used.

Differentiating the marketing-mix:

For health food products, instead of conventional four Ps of marketing, one will need to consider the following seven Ps:

1. Product :

Health food products will need to have the following:

• Scientifically documented health benefits
• Innovative product development targeting different consumer segments
• Clear brand differentiation
-Without this ‘Horlicks Vs Viva’ story is expected to be repeated more often than in the past with enlightened consumer base.
• Reasonable standardization

2. Place:

Innovative use of this ‘P’ will play a critical role in the success of any health food product.

The following distribution outlets for the health food products are important:

• Kirana / Grocery stores
• Supermarkets

However, equally important is the availability of these products in pharmacies as many consumers will perceive these products as important as medicines and may enquire at the pharmacy outlets for their availability.

• Multi Level Marketing (MLM)
- MLM can be used innovatively for health food products marketing, as is being done currently by Amway, Herbal Life etc.

3. Price:

Price of a health food product like many other products is a function of values that the brand will offer and will also depend on:

• Differential brand features and benefits
• Product life cycle

However, pressure on margin for health food products will be more due to:
• Strong bargaining power of distributors’ chain / supermarket stores, unlike pharmaceutical products where retail and wholesale margin is fixed in India
• High promotional expenditure due to usage of both mass media and relatively intensive personal selling.

4. Promotion :

For health food promotion following common tools just like any consumer product marketing will help:

• Advertising through mass media
• Point of Purchase Promotion (POP)
• Sampling

In addition, following campaigns may prove to be highly beneficial for such products:

• Awareness campaign for usefulness of disease prevention measures
• Medical promotion
- This will be important especially for health food products designed for children where the parents usually seek a doctor’s opinion about the product benefits. Doctors may not necessarily prescribe the product but their ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer in reply to parents’ questions on the product may prompt whether the parents will continue with this product for the child or not.

Other types of promotion for health food products may be the following:

• Multi level marketing
• Promotion in schools, sports clubs etc.
• Telemarketing of brand services
- These are especially important for health food products meant for children. In such cases, a telemarketing cell consisting of trained nurses or dieticians, will enquire about the progress of the child with the product and give various advices to the mothers for the child, as required by them. Such types of telemarketing services through specialists will help adding a premium image to the brand to indirectly boost up the sales.
• Internet / social forums
- These tools can also be innovatively used for health food brand promotion.

5. People :

For health food products marketing, people with the following skill sets have been found immensely beneficial:

• Sales person with additional training inputs on concerned health related subjects
• Telemarketing of services with people having nursing or a dietician’s background

6. Process :

- All other ‘P’s’ may work with absolute efficiency, but if the marketing process remains inefficient, the branding exercise may be adversely impacted. Thus following areas need to concentrated upon with equal zest:

• Process efficiency
• Process speed
• Process innovation
• Efficiency of IT interface within the marketing process

7. Physical Evidence :

Now a day’s individual enlightened consumer usually wants to know the ability of the manufacturer and the environment in which a product is manufactured, along with the quality of services that is delivered for the brand. Hence, while considering the marketing-mix for health food products the ‘P’ of ‘physical evidence’ is expected to play an increasingly important role.


It is therefore of immense importance for the marketers to consider the differentiated marketing-mix of seven ‘Ps’ for health food products in their branding exercise.

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.

Pharma SMEs in India: a quick overview

The spread of Pharma SMEs in India:
As per a recent study by Dun and Bradstreet, largest cluster of the Pharma SMEs is located in the western region of India contributing almost 55% of the total SMEs, based mostly in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa. This is followed by the Northern, Southern and Eastern regions with about 20% each located in the Northern and Southern regions and about 5% in the Eastern region of the country.

Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Delhi are the key hubs of the Pharma SMEs. About half of the SMEs are Private Limited Companies with around 25% Public Limited, 15% Partnership and 10% proprietary firms.

Key activities:

The activities of the SMEs have been reported as follows:

• 75% companies are purely manufacturing companies with own facilities

• 13% companies are engaged in manufacturing as well as trading

• 10.5% of the companies are doing R&D work (clinical tests as well as contract research) along with manufacturing

• 1.5% of the companies were focused on only research & development

Around 50% of these companies are engaged in exports to various countries around the world, including USA and Europe.

The strengths:

High level of entrepreneurial zeal and low operational costs across various pharmaceutical business processes are the key strengths of pharma SMEs in India. However, the key question is whether such cost arbitrage is sustainable in the longer term.

Key challenges:

The key challenges encountered by the SMEs are as follows:

• Regulatory conformance to more rigid product quality norms to offer better quality of medicines to the patients

• Sustained investments towards technical upgradation to maintain competitive edge related to manufacturing cost

• Sales and Marketing activities are becoming more and more expensive, in terms of cost of skilled field staff together with their other consequential and modern day marketing tools/ practices in India.

It appears survival of those SMEs who operate only in highly competitive domestic market with manufacturing and/or marketing of low price formulations will indeed be increasingly challenging. This challenge will be even more with the SMEs who do not have enough wherewithals or get the support of the government to face squarely the rapidly changing business environment/demand and falter in choosing the right business models, as applicable to each one of them.

Incentives/facilities provided by the Government of India (GoI):

However, the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers of the GoI has been taking steps to support the SMEs through various incentives/facilities, as follows:

• Credit Linked Capital Subsidy Scheme (CLCSS) to SME pharma units, which will help them to upgrade their facilities as per the revised Schedule M

• List of products reserved for manufacturing by SMEs

• Identification of around 18 pharmaceutical SEZs, which will offer advantages like availability of developed infrastructure, market access and exports along with various tax incentives

GoI involvement in the R&D activities of Pharma SMEs:

As I indicated above, about 1.5% of the SMEs are now focused only on research & development. In ‘India Pharma Summit’ held on November 30, 2009, the Department of Pharmaceuticals of the Government of India announced as follows:

• The government is planning to set up a venture fund to promote R&D in the Pharmaceutical sector, especially for the SMEs

• This will be a close ended fund with a corpus of around Rs. 2000 crore

• The initiative will have active stakeholders both from the government as well as from the industry

• The broad outline of the scheme will emerge in the next two months and the fund will be operational in about three years

Moreover, incentives by way of extending the weighted deduction at the rate of 150% of the expenses on R&D for the next five years and duty exemption for imports of specified machinery used for R&D purpose will help the sector to augment its R&D capabilities.

Areas the Pharma SMEs should look at to strengthen themselves:

Increasing opportunities in the generic pharmaceutical market both domestic and exports will fuel the growth of SMEs having robust and focused business models and plans. Besides, rapidly emerging Contract Research and Manufacturing Services (CRAMS) market also throws open a lucrative outsourcing business space for the SMEs to cash on, leveraging their current cost arbitrage in collaboration with the large local and global pharmaceutical companies.


The future of Pharma SMEs in India, in my view, is quite good, provided they can choose the right business model for growth. However, it is worth noting that the SMEs will now face much more and newer challenges related to the globalization process of the Indian economy and the markets, together with regulatory and social needs for improved quality of medicines and conformance to more stringent environmental and safety standards. Collaborative approach both with large domestic and global players will be of utmost importance and could be a win-win prescription for growth.

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.