New Delhi: A Group of Ministers Thursday approved a proposal to bring 348 essential drugs under government control, a move which may help reduce prices of these medicines.
At present, the government controls prices of 74 drugs through the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA).
The proposal was approved by the Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, which finalised the overall pricing policy for the pharmaceuticals.
The recommendations of the GoM would be sent to the Cabinet within a week for the final clearance to bring the 348 essential drugs in National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM).
These drugs with sales of around Rs 29,000 crore account for about 60 percent of the domestic market.
"We have finalised every thing today. Now it will go to the Cabinet and the Cabinet will take the final view. We will send it in a week's time," Pawar told reporters here after the meeting.
Fertilisers and Chemicals Minister Srikant Jena, who is also member of the GoM, said there was a consensus on the formula for fixing the prices of these medicines.
"There were three-four options before the GoM but I think broad agreement has been reached," Jena said.
When asked if it would be mandatory for the doctors to prescribe generic drugs, Jena said: "The health ministry will look at it ... More number of generic drug shops will be opened in the country".
Apart from Pawar, Sharma and Jena, other members of the group include Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Minister for HRD, Communications and IT Kapil Sibal, Law Minister Salman Khurshid and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
However, Tapan J Ray, Director General Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) said that the new proposal will have adverse impact on the industry, as the span of price control will now cover around 30 percent of the Indian pharmaceutical market with further squeeze in the margin.
Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance's secretary general DG Shah said, "The industry has lost one year's growth. It will hurt all major companies, particularly the large 100 domestic and foreign companies. The silver lining is that it is a balanced policy and will ensure both access and availability."