$5.4 Billion worth of free drugs for Indians!

Sep 10, 2012: In 2011, the Indian government passed a $5.4 billion dollar (US) policy, which would provide free medicines to the citizens and residents of India, and called for its mandatory implementation. This was undoubtedly a major source of relief for the impoverished and underprivileged who were unable to bear the expense of some drugs, quoted by some of the major branded players in our country. On the flip side, this could potentially lead to a loss of Indo- foreign pharmaceutical collaborations, especially since this bill is rigorously being pushed since July 2012.


For instance, the Bayer developed Nexavar (Sorafenib tosylate) as a tyrosine-kinase inhibitor employed in the management of hepatic and renal cancers was marketed in India at a whopping Rupees 2,84,428. This made it virtually impossible for the poverty-line cancer afflicted man to use. To remedy this, the Indian government granted a generic drug manufacturing license to a Hyderabad (India) based Natco Pharma, to synthesize and formulate ‘Nexavar’ at a fraction of the cost, at a mere Rs. 8800 for a pack of 120 tablets. It also while also making it compulsory for them to supply the drug to at least 600 needy patients annually, fulfilling which, the manufacturing license is granted and renewed, until the patent expiry in the year 2021.


This is an extremely noble gesture by the government, who postulate that by the year 2017, almost 0.6 million people would benefit by the newly conceptualized scheme. IMS health, a healthcare information specialist predicts that emerging global pharmaceutical firms would account for almost 28% of drug sales in India by 2015, which is more than a 200% growth from the statistics of the year 2005, but with this unexpected turn in introduction of generic drugs, the figures could now be in peril. IMS adds that of the 600 Billion rupees of drugs are sold annually in India, almost 60% of drugs would be covered under the new doctrine.


Patients under private care at hospitals are expected to pay for their own medication. Under the free-drug scheme, the state will be responsible to fund 25% of the cost of the drugs, whereas the central government will cover the remainder of the shortfall. As of today, the central government has contributed a mere 1 billion Rupees, but are on a steady increase.


For better care, needy patients have an option of approaching a private clinic or a physician and later get the requisite prescribed drugs from a government run centre or store.


Although this well laid out plan has been on the horizons for more than a year, it will be very stringently implemented and in place by December 2012. Despite being a major blow to the biggies such as Pfizer, Glaxo Smithkline and Merck, its a boom for the generic wizards Dr. Reddy’┬ás, Cipla and the likes.

Dr. Jay Shinde

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