Punjab asks centre to regulate price of Buprenorphine

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Chandigarh: After cracking whip on private de-addiction centres in the state by putting a cap on price of detoxification medicine, the Punjab government has asked the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) to regulate the price of buprenorphine-naloxone under the Essential Commodities Act.

Punjab is home to about 7.2 lakh drug addicts, of which only about 2.5 lakh are undergoing treatment at government-run and private de-addiction centres. Reaching out to the rest of the addicts is one of the key challenges faced by the state government and in a letter to the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, the state government has cited profiteering and commercialization by private centres as the key reasons for the addicts unable to access the treatment.

The state government in the letter apprised the central authority that the combination of buprenorphine-naloxone is available at private drug de-addiction centres at exorbitant rates in the range of Rs 300 to Rs 400 for a strip of 10 tablets. Whereas, the same medicine is procured by the state government at the rate of Rs 38 per strip of 10 tablets through contract rate.

The state government asserted that the private centres were dispensing the combination of medicine at high rates, thus depriving treatment to large number of patients due to steep price of the drug. Most of the addicts were suffering from mental illness and belong to socio-economic backward class.

The Punjab government urged the central authority to take necessary steps to being the combination of medicine under the preview of Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO) by ceiling the price at earliest so save the gullible patients from being fleeced by the pharmaceutical manufacturers and private de-addiction centres.

“If the price of the medicine is capped and the drug formulation is made available at affordable rates, about 5 lakh left out patients may also get an access to the treatment,” urged the state government.

The Punjab government had last week fixed the price of one tablet of buprenorphine at Rs 7.5, which was earlier sold between Rs 30 to Rs 40 by private de-addiction centres.

Taking note of limited availability of buprenorphine and naloxone, the Union government had earlier this year issued an order allowing psychiatric clinics and hospitals to dispense the medicine. The Punjab and Haryana high court had put a stay on direction following a petition moved by a Punjab resident.

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