Why Indian drug prices among the cheapest in the world

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While access to healthcare and medication for illnesses is a universal need, the cost of wellness and treatment are subject to wide, and massive, variations around the world. Thus, when it comes to the cost of medicines for some of the most common diseases, prices in the US are way above the median prices globally. A recent study by UK-based health tech company Medbelle ranks India as one of the five countries with the lowest median prices for branded and generic drugs taken as a a whole. But surprisingly, drugs for at least three categories of diseases in India cost more than the global median price with two of them substantially so.

While India, which has an elaborate price control mechanism for drugs, is towards the bottom of the list for global median prices for most medicines, the country also has among the highest out-of pocket expenditures on health, which means the prices still put a high burden on the purse for the economically weaker sections in its population. For example, while there’s a +306.82% deviation overall in the US on the prices of the drugs analysed for the study, out-of pocket expenditure on health is only 11.1% in that country, meaning that a bulk of healthcare costs are borne through some sort of coverage. Compare this with a high 64% out-of-pocket expenditure for Indians on healthcare.

The study focused on a comparative index of 50 countries to highlight differences in cost of some of the most widely recognised and indispensable medicines. It analysed 13 pharmaceutical compounds for a dollar for-dollar comparison of how much medicines cost in different countries “regardless of whether covered by a healthcare system, or paid directly from the individual’s pocket”.

The medications chosen cover a variety of common conditions like heart disease, asthma, anxiety disorders and erectile dysfunction. The average prices of both the brand compound and their generic versions were included in order to have a complete profile of each medication. Lastly, the dosage was normalised to make the price comparable.