Friday, April 13, 2007


Cheaper medicines for the elderly

Times of India

Sonia Sarkar

Patients who feel their doctors are prescribing them expensive drugs of a particular label, now have an option. They can choose medicines that suit their pocket at the click of the mouse.

For the first time in India, a website called ‘,' developed by Dr M M Mittal, a senior physician at Tirath Ram hospital, has listed around 2.5 lakh drugs along with their constituents, name as well as the prices, which would help the consumer make an economically judicious choice from the available brands.

"There are hundreds of brands available in the market having the same constituents but patients are not aware of the options as they mostly stick to the brands prescribed by the physician. Most consumers don't even know about the options available in the market and they end up spending extra money. Browsing the website will help them to get all relevant details related to drug — different brands available in the market under the same generic but at different prices," said Dr Mittal.

The website contains options — brand or name of manufacturer or generic name, arranged in an alphabetical order. All you need to do is to key in the option and you will get to know the active ingredients of the drug. This particular link will take you forward to the matched brands with the same constituents and the price comparisons.

You will be surprised to know that the pill that keeps your high blood pressure in control is available between a price range of Rs 5-22. For instance, a pill having amlodipine besylate (2.5mg) is available at a price of Rs 22 per 10 tablets while the same quantity of another BP medicine is available at Rs 5. Also, spasma drugs containing dicyclomine hydrochloride and mefenamic acid are available for anything between Rs 15 and 22.

Ten tablets of a particular medicine are available at Rs 15, while another with the same constituents costs as much as Rs 22. It's not just the tablets, the website has comparative data on syrups and injections along with the constituents.

"During the last 30 years of my profession, I have come across several patients who have stopped taking medicines halfway for their prolonged ailments as they cannot afford costly medicines. This has pushed me to find out feasible alternatives for them and this portal is a answer to their queries. However, these are just the first steps towards making healthcare a more affordable product," said Dr Mittal, who took at least four years to develop the website.

He says he has been updating it on a regular basis. "We collect the data from different journals and literature available with chemists and medical representatives to update the website," added Dr Mittal.

This one-stop health portal is soon to include the list of latest banned drugs, developments in the pharmaceutical industry and any health care guidelines issued by petrochemical and health and family welfare ministries. "There is no official window where one would get to know the latest in healthcare. For say, recently the department of chemicals and petrochemicals have reduced the prices of 100 basic drugs but the consumers are not even aware of the latest prices. We are trying make available all necessary information on the website. However, we also expect the government to help the common man to get the relevant details on drugs," added Dr Mittal.

Drug price control

Mahendra Kumar Singh

Pharma companies seem to have garnered sufficient support from various government agencies ahead of the crucial meeting of a ministerial panel, scheduled for Tuesday, where the chemicals ministry, the nodal body for the sector, is going to make a strong pitch for stiffer price control norms.

With finance ministry, department of industrial policy and promotion and Planning Commission opposing the chemicals ministry's moves to widen the price control ambit, chances are the government may not be able to speed up the new pharma policy.

Sources said the other ministries did not want the chemicals ministry to go ahead with its plans to expand the price control umbrella through the National List of Essential Medicines (NILEM) from 74 drugs to 354 merely on the basis of its interpretation of a Supreme Court order.

While the chemicals ministry has said that the new policy has been necessitated by the court ruling — which according to its interpretation is unambiguous — some of the other agencies are expected to seek a legal interpretation from the attorney general. The mood in the other departments is more akin to the thinking of the industry, which has used the services of former Supreme Court judges to interpret the order.

Besides, a group of ministers member wants the chemicals ministry to separate the matter of widening the scope of NILEM from the other issues. "There is little evidence that the pharma industry is overcharging and more control will only affect further development of an industry which is turning into a world beater of sorts,” he said.

Even on the other moves, the going is not easy for the new pharma policy.

While pushing for sops to boost R&D Planning Commission is expected to oppose the proposed 200% ceiling on maximum allowable post-manufacturing expenses (MAPE), which are in the nature of spending on promoting a brand. In case of the other medicines, MAPE is proposed to be capped at 150%. Even the proposal to ban the sale of branded generic or off-patent medicines is not being supported by other government agencies.

But the Plan panel is in support of reducing excise duty on medicines to 8%, the lowest slab — something that the finance ministry is unwilling to accept.

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