National Health Protection Scheme: ‘Universal healthcare has to be co-opted in new pharma policy’

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Union minster Ananat kumar at the Parliament House in new Delhi on Friday Express photo by Prem Nath Pandey 21 july 17

The Department of Pharmaceuticals, which comes under Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, released the draft of the new pharmaceutical policy in August 2017.

While the Centre is still deciding the contours of the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), Union Chemical and Fertiliser Minister Ananth Kumar stated on Thursday that this “new dimension” of the health scheme will be co-opted in the new pharmaceutical policy, which itself is in a draft stage.

“We are eliciting opinions, we are having discussions and new dimension has been added in this Budget of universal healthcare that also has to be co-opted into this pharma policy. In couple of months, we will finalise it. And while doing so, we will go for all round reforms so that ease of doing business and ease of living, as proposed by Narendrabhai Modi, can go hand in hand,” Kumar said at the ‘India Pharma 2018’ exhibition in Bengaluru on Thursday.

The Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP), which comes under Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, released the draft of the new pharmaceutical policy in August 2017. In the Union Budget 2018-19, an initial corpus of Rs 2,000 crore was provided for the NHPS that aims to provide medical cover of Rs 5 lakh to over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families. Kumar stated that the big healthcare initiative announced in the budget for 2018-19 requires many verticals — infrastructure, human resources and pharma and medical device products.

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), which works under the DOP, revised the price cap on coronary stents on Monday wherein the drug eluting stents (DES) and bare metal stents (BMS) would now have the ceiling price of Rs 27, 890 and Rs 7,660. “There is huge demand from people that various other implants and devices should be under price control. And the government of India is seriously considering it,” Kumar said on Thursday.

At the inaugural ceremony on Thursday morning, S Sridhar, Managing Director, Pfizer Limited – who is also the Co-Chair of the FICCI Pharmaceutical Committee – stated that Indian pharmaceutical industry remains in a constant state of uncertainty due to frequent policy changes.

Sridhar stated: “In last few years, there is not a single policy in the pharma landscape that has been either not been changed or sought to be changed. From the policies that govern manufacturing, the ones that govern sourcing of APIs, policy related to pricing implementation, clinical trial guidelines, labelling requirements on drugs and devices and we can go on. Practically, this means that the industry remains in a constant state of uncertainty, not being able to predict what is next. Since the amendment process of many important policies are already under way, we ask that this be conducted transparently and expeditiously, followed by a period of stability.”

According to the FICCI study that was released on Thursday, institutions (both hospitals and government) have become much larger customers: government expenditure on healthcare has increased from $22 billion in 2012 to $53 billion in 2016. However, the growth rate for the Indian pharmaceutical market has slowed down consistently over the last five quarters — from 12-15 percent in 2015 to 5-6 percent in 2017.

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