The way to do drugs
- The quality of drugs and their prices both require serious government oversight
Apr 17, 2019-
While every enterprise is guided by the motive of profit-making, certain industries, like pharmaceuticals, have a certain moral responsibility due to the life-altering nature of their products. According to a study carried out by the Nepal Health Research Council, the same generic medicines are being sold in the market with huge price variations—with some brands selling their products at a price 400 percent higher than others. The Department of Drug Administration, the national regulatory agency of the drug market in the country, however, said that it is unaware of such variations in market prices.
This is not the first time the market has experienced such high discrepancies in drug prices. Similar occurrences in price variations were discovered in August 2015. As a result, in order to regulate the market, the Department of Drug Administration set price caps for 90 medicines that were classified as ‘essential drugs’ keeping in mind the interests of the consumers. Though the setting of these price caps were commendable at the time, it seems that the department has a lot more to do. However, price controls are not the only measure that the government needs to consider in this industry. The government needs to actively get involved in quality control as well.
At present, there are 53 pharmaceutical companies operating in Nepal. Many a times, reports have surfaced wherein the drug manufacturers import cheaper chemicals. But most of the times, the chemicals purchased are just a few months away from their expiry date. This obviously reduces production costs, which ultimately means that the prices for the drugs will be cheaper. In such cases, while the drugs may come at the cheaper prices, producers are compromising on the quality of the drug, which will ultimately affect the consumers.
The authorities are themselves unaware of the reasons for discrepancies in the price of different drugs. Hence, the government should investigate why there is price discrepancy in the first place. If it is due to issues that have to do with quality, where medicines that are priced higher tend to be better than the ones that cost low—owing to the higher cost of research, development and drug production—then the government should actively regulate the market in favour of quality medication. To support its citizens’ purchasing ability, perhaps the government can consider subsidies in such cases. However, if quality is not an issue and the producers are over-charging for medicines without any legitimate reason, such companies should be penalised. The quality of drugs being sold and their prices both require serious government oversight. To this end—to make sure the consumers do not feel duped—the government should intervene and set a cap on the prices for different kinds of medicines.
Published: 17-04-2019 07:58