NPPA study finds huge gap in cancer drug prices

NPPA study finds huge gap in cancer drug prices

Government may move to control prices, say experts.

The first-ever study conducted by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) on cancer medicines has found huge price variations among different brands of same medicines sold in the country.

The price difference is the highest — 3, 210 per cent — among different brands of breast cancer medicine letrozole. While a 10-tablet strip of letrozole 2.5 mg from Swiss drug maker Novartis costs Rs 1,986, the same strip by Hyderabad-based Hetero carries a price tag of Rs 60.

The pattern is visible in all the five or six types of cancer drugs where the price difference is over 1,000 per cent, as imported medicines are always the most expensive while a domestic maker sells the cheapest version.

The NPPA analysis is known to be based on the price list provided by the companies.
The study is the first step towards the government’s plan to bring some regulation in the cancer medicine segment.

Of the 75 medicines that were subjected to analysis, the price difference of over 100 per cent was seen in 30 cases. There were several instances were both highest and lowest prices were offered by domestic companies.

While Novartis, Pfizer and Eli Lilly were some of the foreign multinational companies whose products were included in the analysis, their Indian counterparts were Dr Reddys, Sun, Cadila, Hetero, Glenmark and Natco, among others.

Experts say NPPA findings will strengthen the Department of Pharmaceuticals’ attempt to bring some regulation in pricing of cancer medicines, but said it would not be an easy process.
The industry representatives, however, said the printed maximum retail price was not often the price paid by the buyer as companies offered discounts and special schemes (pay for two, get one free), which reduces the effective price of costly medicines. “In case of some drugs, we even give it free to patients who cannot afford it,” said an executive with a foreign multinational drug firm.