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NPPA slashes prices of 390 anti-cancer medicines

Some brands with high MRPs likely to see up to 25% cut. The latest list expands the number of brands impacted by the move to 390 from 105 earlier, however, it leaves out brands belonging to seven of the 42 drugs targeted by the regulator.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi |
Updated: March 9, 2019 2:47:52 am
Some brands with high MRPs likely to see up to 25% cut.

India’s drug pricing regulator Friday revised its list of anti-cancer medicine brands that would see a price reduction following its cap on trade margins last week, a move to provide more clarity to patients consuming these expensive drugs. The latest list expands the number of brands impacted by the move to 390 from 105 earlier, however, it leaves out brands belonging to seven of the 42 drugs targeted by the regulator.

On February 27, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) capped at 30 per cent the maximum margins retailers can enjoy over the price at which brands of 42 anti-cancer drugs are sold to stockists.

This would allow the maximum retail price (MRP) of these drugs to be marked up only as much as 42.8 per cent from the price at which the stockist had purchased them. While the regulator announced this move last week, it did not have enough pricing data to assess its impact, and its earlier data found the move would lead to a reduction in prices of only a third of 355 brands.

The list released on Friday expands the number of brands impacted to 390 of 425—nearly 92 per cent. Its earlier list of 105 brands did not include brands belonging to over half of the 42 drugs in NPPA’s exercise, expected to be implemented on all drugs currently not under price control, according to minutes of NPPA’s February 26 meeting on this decision. NPPA has stated that its order is applicable on “all” brands containing any of the 42 drugs “irrespective” of whether it is in list.

New data collected from manufacturers and hospitals shows around 40 per cent of these 390 anti-cancer drugs will see MRPs slashed 50 per cent and above. For instance, several brands of bortezomib, which prevents the growth of cancer cells, are expected to see a drop in price of over 70 per cent, bringing down their MRPs from over Rs10,000-Rs20,000 to below Rs 5,000 for different doses of each injection. Earlier, over 40 per cent of the 105 brands in previous list were expected to see prices drop only up to 25 per cent. However, some brands with the highest MRPs in NPPA’s latest list are expected to see up to 25 per cent reduction.

For instance, the MRP of lung cancer drug crizotinib, earlier Rs1.07 lakh for 60 capsules of 250 mg, will reduce to Rs 1.06 lakh — a reduction of 0.40 per cent. Brands belonging to seven of the 42 drugs in NPPA’s latest exercise, including expensive leukaemia and lung cancer medicines, are not included in the latest list.

For instance, non-small cell lung cancer drug osimertinib has an MRP of Rs2.02 to Rs 2.04 lakh for a strip of 10 tablets of 40-80 mg dosage, according to online pharmacy 1mg. Dasatinib, used to treat chronic myeloid leukaemia, has MRPs of Rs 80,000 to Rs 2.12 lakh for 60 tablets, depending on the dosage.

An email sent to NPPA about why these drugs were not included in the latest list remained unanswered by press time Friday. As per an analysis by NPPA in 2017, parts of which The Indian Express has viewed, over 90 per cent of over 32,800 medicine brands with a total moving annual turnover of Rs 1.10 lakh crore had margins between 30 and 800 per cent.

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