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2012 of Pharma industry ends with debate over patents

2012 was occupied by Pharma industry bodies & patient groups debated over the contours of the pricing policy. Essential drugs are getting cheaper. The Pharma pricing policy that was drafted towards the end of 2011 was just the tip of the iceberg which melted into a veritable deluge.

December 28, 2012 / 10:50 AM IST

2012 was occupied by Pharma industry bodies & patient groups debated over the contours of the pricing policy. Essential drugs are getting cheaper. The Pharma pricing policy that was drafted towards the end of 2011 was just the tip of the iceberg which melted into a veritable deluge.


Also read: Sukhani upbeat on IT, pharma sectors


Through most of 2012, New Delhi was in a code-blue, the national pharma pricing policy had Blood pressures shooting up, heart beats racing and nerves twitching. The Group of ministers headed by Sharad Pawar, pharma industry bodies and patient groups debated over the contours of the pricing policy, while a vigilant Supreme Court kept them on their toes. It was September when they finalized recommendations with a promise to notify the policy by the end of November.


The journey was full of rocky roads. Finance minister P Chidambaram objected to using a weighted average price method to calculate maximum retail price on essential drugs. It was early-December before the policy actually made way.


The final prognosis:
 
348 essential drug prices would come under price control and their MRP would be determined using a simple average of the price for all brands enjoying a market share greater than one percent. The GoM was relieved, the Supreme Court satisfied, but the industry, was turning blue.


DG Shah, Secretary General, IPA said, “it is harsher than what we had anticipated and recommended by GoM. More than 50 percent of our profits will be wiped out”.


An unfriendly pricing policy was the least of the problems. Multi-national drug makers got a bit of a shock when the Indian patent office granted Natco Pharma a compulsory license to manufacture and sell a generic version of Bayer's anti-cancer drug Nexavar.


The order, which over-rode Bayer's patent on grounds of lack of accessibility and affordability, opened up a legal can of worms and pitted Innovators against generic drug makers. It was cheaper drugs against Research spending.


Y K Hamied, Chairman, Cipla said, “India needs a pragmatic drug policy and Compulsory License is a right move”.


“It strikes at the root of innovation”, said Ranjit Shahani, MD, Novartis India


The order sent alarm bells ringing in the world of Big Pharma. Big Pharma were concerned about patent rights and on the other hand there were cancer patients who now had the critical treatments in their affordability brackets.
Even as a legal battle, it ensued with an appeal against the order and it had already sparked off a price war with Cipla slashing prices of many anti cancer drugs by over 70%.


The Indian Patent Office tightened further screws when it revoked patents on Pfizer's kidney cancer drug Sutent and Roche's hepatitis C drug Pegasys. This gave multi-national drug makers a case of chronic heart-burn.


There is no sign of Indian and global companies mending ways on patent cases. It’s the roll out of the government’s universal healthcare scheme that still awaits to be explored.

 

first published: Dec 27, 2012 10:29 pm

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