In early March, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), India's drug price regulator, fixed the ceiling prices of 463 brands of cancer medicines. The authority invoked a public interest clause in the Drugs Price Control Order, which authorises the NPPA to reduce drug prices under special circumstances, and reworked the maximum retail prices of these brands after fixing a 30 per cent trade margin. The price reduction ranged between 25 per cent and 85 per cent. There is no doubt that the move will help reduce the cost of treatment.
But will that make treatment affordable? Unlikely, as prices of many of the drugs, especially imported, patent protected medicines, are still prohibitively high. Further, fixing trade margins will not solve the problem of a high introductory price. Public interest clauses in other rules and Acts can be used to tackle this problem. For instance, the government can look into clauses in the Patent Act and see how it can lower the costs by speeding up generic competition in the domestic market.