MUMBAI: Prices of essential medicines including painkillers, anti-infectives, cardiac and antibiotics could go up marginally from April, with the government allowing drug makers an increase in line with the change in the annual Wholesale Price Index (WPI).
The annual change in WPI notified by the government works out to 0.5% for 2020, the drug prices regulator National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) said on Friday.
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Prices of scheduled drugs are allowed an increase each year by the drug regulator, in line with the annual WPI. Not enthused with the increase for the year, and having been impacted with nearly 15-20% surge in manufacturing costs during the year, the pharma industry plans to seek a 20% increase.
“We feel the percentage (allowed for increase) is too small. During the pandemic, the industry was impacted by a rise in prices of key raw materials (active pharmaceutical ingredients), sea freight and increase in packaging material, among other rising costs.
We plan to ask for an increase as a one-off increase from the government soon,” an industry executive said.
Most pharma ingredients and intermediates for manufacturing cardio-vascular, diabetes, antibiotics, anti-infectives and vitamins are imported from China, while for certain active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), dependence on China is around 80-90%.
Once the pandemic surged in China early last year, there was a disruption in supplies leading to higher costs for Indian drug importers. Further, China increased prices of key inputs by 10-20% once supplies resumed mid-2020.
Recently, government extended the increase in price of Heparin injection, which is also used in C-19 treatment, till September 2021. In June last year, it had allowed a 50% price hike on Heparin after receiving requests from several companies, citing the rise in cost of APIs imported from China.
This was allowed under DPCO (Drug Price Control Order) 2013. The companies had also said that over the years the regulated price has decreased, whereas there has been a consistent increase in the import price of APIs, thereby making it commercially unviable.
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