India’s central drug pricing controlling authority is planning to track the availability of essential medicines, in order to ensure that manufacturers do not remove price-controlled products from the market if they prove to be insufficiently profitable.

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) says it will use data from ORG-IMS, the joint venture between market information companies IMS India and ACNielsen ORG-MARG, to follow approximately 53,000 essential medicines each month, to ensure that consumers have continued access to them. If a price-controlled drug which is included on the National List of Essential Medicines or has no therapeutic equivalent on the market is found to be unavailable for three consecutive months, the NPPA will ask the manufacturer to restore it to the market. However, the agency has no authority to require the drugmaker to do so.

Meantime, the NPPA has also asked a number of leading drugmakers why they have put products containing price-controlled ingredients onto the market at prices which have not been fixed by the Authority. Manufacturers are required to obtain an official price for such drugs each time the price of the controlled ingredient is revised or set, but a large number are currently failing to do so, an official investigation has found.

The study, which was actually undertaken to find out how many manufacturers had acted on the undertaking they made late last year to cut the prices of 886 drug products, discovered price-control violations by a number of leading companies. The worst offender is reported to be Cadila Healthcare which, it is claimed, has not obtained the required government price for 33 brands and has also been charging unacceptably high prices for 54 other products.

As to the main purpose of the investigation, government officials who visited retail stores in New Delhi discovered that, of the 886 products whose prices drugmakers had offered to slash, only about 250 are actually being made available at reduced prices. They were also told that some of the products are no longer being manufactured. By Lynne Taylor