In late 2016, rumours swirled about a major government overhaul of the NPPA, in India. The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority is the primary drug regulator in the country, but it has been under scrutiny for some time.
According to various sources, discussions are ongoing about the future of the regulator, with some major state departments recommending a review of its powers.
In India generic Diaprim cost $0.07. No generic drugs w/TPP! TPP & TTIP even aim at prolonging drugs patent protection time frame. #EndTPP— DAILY ONION (@dailyonion) February 5, 2016
The NPPA was set up in 1997. It is functions as a supervisory presence within the Indian drugs market. It is responsible for making sure that pharmaceuticals remain at a reasonable price and can always be afforded by those who need them.
In 2013, for example, the Drug Price Control Order capped the price of 432 medicines. In December 2016, a further fifty drugs were put in a price lock. They include everything from diabetes treatments to anxiety medications, drugs for bacterial infections, and lifesaving HIV drugs.
“Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli, who raised cost of HIV drugs by 5,500% after buying the patents of all the drugs pleads not guilty at hearing.— AIDSROKO (@aidsroko) February 4, 2016
In some cases, the price freeze resulted in a cost reduction of up to 40%, which is great news for those with chronic or debilitating diseases. So, why doesn’t the NPPA have the full backing of the Indian government?
Well, it has much to do with where the country currently stands in the global economy. The Indian government is investing a great deal of money in plans to transform the country into a major hub for manufacturing pharmaceuticals.
However, it can only do this by reducing the number of drugs under price control, eliminating the practice of periodic licence renewals, and making it easier for investors to set up new companies.
The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) has been a vocal critic of the NPPA and believes that the body should be ‘wound up and deployed with a new mandate.’
It seems now that the rumours were mostly unfounded. Or, at least, the government has had a change of heart, because the NPPA will remain in its current form for the time being. This is welcome news for Chairman Bhupender Singh, who claimed that he hadn’t been informed of any plans to review the regulatory body.
It doesn’t mean that an overhaul won’t happen though, especially as Niti Aayog is keen to adopt a less rigorous approach to pharmaceutical pricing. It argues that, even if a drug is deemed essential, it is usually possible to agree on a cheaper price in conjunction with the industry, as opposed to through a rigid regulatory system.