Getting doctors to prescribe only generic drugs, and spreading awareness among patients about their right to choose the brand of prescribed medicines most affordable to them is key to the access to medicine issue, according to Bhupendra Singh, Chairman of the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA).

“We have made a request to the health ministry that central government hospitals prescribe only generic drugs from now on. This is a start. Our hope is that soon, people will start asking doctors if there are generic options when doctors give branded medicines,” Mr Singh said.

The regulatory body has been working on revising and lowering prices of formulations on the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM), which now has 799 items. “In India, we do not have a system where the government insures or provides health care for everyone, like they do in United States. Till the time we evolve a system like that, we will have to cap prices on medicines,” Singh said, adding, “There is a perception — rightly so — that pharmaceutical companies operate on huge profit margins.”

“Over the years the NLEM has been modified five times. So far, it has revised prices of 330 out of 799 formulations. “Even after all prices have been revised, we only cover 17 per cent of the pharmaceutical market. The remaining 83 per cent is not in our control,” Singh said.


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