Healthcare Technology Featured Article

May 22, 2012

India's War on Drugs

An intense battle is taking place in India over their government’s proposal to cut back on the cost of drugs to its citizens. Major pharmaceutical companies both domestic and foreign, are fiercely opposed to the government’s pending decision over administering a price cap. Parties in favor of the price reductions are health activists, the majority of India’s citizens without health insurance, generic drug companies and even India’s Controller General.

A chairman for Piramal Healthcare told the Wall Street Journal of his opinion, stating, “The market itself should determine the price. The customer has the choice to get a cheaper alternative.” However, if it were up to German-based pharmaceutical giant, Bayer, there would be no cheaper alternatives because they have fiercely fought against India’s generic drug distributors from obtaining patents for pharmaceuticals that treat cancer. Although Bayer initially lost their battle against Nacto for selling cheaper versions of the drug, Sorefenib, in a patent litigation, Nacto was subjected to pay Bayer six percent of net sales over the liver and kidney cancer treatment. Bayer states that not only are the patents necessary to continue their production of innovative medicine, Bayer has a Patient Assistance Program that reduces the drug, Nexavar, to one-tenth the original cost.

Perhaps the number of patients benefitting from Bayer’s program, which is currently unknown, was not enough for intellectual property boards to rule in Bayer’s favor. Bayer has continued to lose patent litigations in India, which in turn has dropped the price of many drugs by 97 percent. Despite Bayer’s setbacks, Big Pharma has continued to push innovations such as Beta-Blocker Propranolol to treat patients who suffer from racism. Perhaps there can be an arrangement made between brand pharmaceuticals and generic distributors, where giant drug companies forgo the decision to patent drugs for cancer treatment, and charge the racists’ full price.

In 2011, Qatar’s Supreme Council of Health prohibited pharmaceutical distributions from making more than 10 percent on medicines sold to their citizens. Similarly, investigations are underway in the UK over lowering the cost of groundbreaking medication. India is a country where over two-thirds of their population is without health insurance. China and Africa have more citizens with health insurance than India.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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