Medicine prices to go up by 12%, will it change the way we buy drugs

Medicine prices to go up by 12%, will it change the way we buy drugs

The prices of essential medicines, including painkillers, antibiotics, anti-infectives and cardiac medicines, are going to go up from April 1.

Amid the increase in prices of almost everything, there is some more bad news for consumers. The prices of essential medicines are set to go up by 12 per cent. But does that mean people are going to change the way they buy medicine?

Prices of painkillers, antibiotics, anti-infectives and cardiac medicines are among the drugs whose prices are going to go up from April 1.

Last year, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) announced a 10.7 per cent change in the Wholesale Price Index (WPI).

Every year, the NPPA announces a change in the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) in accordance with the Drugs (Price Control) Order, 2013, or DPCO, 2013.

This is for scheduled drugs, prices of which are controlled by the NPPA. Non-scheduled drugs are outside price control and are allowed an annual increase of 10 per cent.

This is the second year in a row that the increase in prices of scheduled drugs will be higher than non-scheduled drugs. The or scheduled drugs are part of the national list of essential medicines.

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Based on that order, drug prices regulator NPPA goes for WPI-based price change every year, which pharmaceutical companies then implement. The fixing of prices impact over 800 essential medicines and medical devices.

The annual change in WPI, as notified by the government, works out to 12.12% during 2022, reports quoted the NPPA as saying on Monday.

Prices of 384 molecules, which correspond to around 900 formulations across 27 therapies, are expected to go up by 12 per cent, a report in Times of India said.

"Everyone will be impacted by this price rise. People who take more medicines will obviously be hit harder. But any increase is an increase," says Pratap Sharma, a resident of Vasundhara Enclave in Delhi.

"But people have a lot of choices and avenues now," adds Sharma, a retired engineering and management professional who has worked with western multinational companies.

What are the options with medicine buyers and do they take those options?

Behavioural patterns of people buying medicine vary from area to area, depending on their affluence.

"People buying medicines in GK-1 go with whatever is prescribed by doctors. Price points of medicines do not influence their buying decision," says Kamal Jain, a chemist in South Delhi's GK-1.

"But people in other areas, depending on their purchasing power and budget, do ask chemists if there are cheaper variants of the medicines prescribed," says Kamal Jain.

Retired professional Pratap Sharma says customers have lot of options these days. "Generic medicines are very affordable. Some generics are up to 90 per cent cheaper than those offered by brands," says Sharma.

"People do come and ask for alternative medicines which we do prescribe to them, a compound drug with the same properties," says Chandrashekhar of 7 Hills Pharmacy in Hyderabad.

Chandrashekhar says he hasn't yet taken a look at the list of the essential medicines that will go up after the recent order of drug controller NPPA. "I hope this won't add to the burden of the common man," he says.

The NPPA's decision which will pinch customers will come as a relief to the drug industry.

"This specific increase applicable from April 1 is majorly because of the raw materials that are imported from foreign. The cost of these chemicals have become dearer, which is compelling the government the hike the price," says Bhilai-based chemist Rajesh Gaur.

Prices of raw materials of medicines or active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) have seen a huge jump. Not only APIs, freight and packaging prices have shot up too.

Last year, the NPPA announced an annual change of 10.76% in the Wholesale Price Index. This affected the prices of nearly 800 scheduled medicines on the National List of Essential Medicines, used to treat the majority of common ailments.

Prices of medicines used to treat fever, infections, heart diseases, high blood pressure, skin diseases and anaemia were those that were impacted.

In 2021, the WPI increase was 0.53%. In 2020, it was 1.88%, while in 2019 and 2018 it was 4.26% and 3.43%, respectively.

Does the Bhilai-based chemist see any change in buyer behaviour due to medicine prices shooting up?

"As far as my experience goes, the buying pattern for medicines that are usually sold on prescription will see no change. However, generic medicines will witness an incredible increase of 12% in MRP, and will certainly pinch the customers and cheaper substitutes will be suggested," says Rajesh Gaur.

Delhi resident Pratap Sharma says the biggest relief will come to consumers when prices of manufacturers are capped. "Retailers offer a 10 per cent discount at best. Manufacturers make the most money. The government has already capped the prices of medical devices, including stents. It now needs to cap the prices by manufacturers," adds Sharma.

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