Banning of combination drugs

The Centre has taken a step that was long overdue. The Union Health Ministry has banned 328 ‘combination drugs’ to prevent their ‘irrational use.’ The Health Ministry has claimed that ingredients used in the making of these medicines do not benefit those taking them. The drugs banned include painkillers like Saridon that people often take without any medical prescription.  Some cough syrups, painkillers and flu drugs have also been banned. A combination drug is one in which two different medicines are combined and sold. The price of a combo drug is much more than the prices of the two drugs sold separately. The combination does not add to the therapeutic value of the medicine but helps the manufacturers earn huge profits.
The drug multinationals, with the connivance of the members of the medical profession, are looting the suffering people. The size of the drugs and pharmaceutical industry in India has grown phenomenally over the years. The present (2017) market size is valued at $33 billion. The export of drugs and pharmaceuticals from India in 2017-18 stood at $17.27 billion and is expected to reach $20 million by 2020. These figures give an idea of the size of the profit the industry is making. Despite repeated instructions of the Government asking doctors to prescribe only generic names of drugs instead of brand names, the private medical practitioners by and large have tended to ignore them and continued the practice of prescribing medicines by their brand names.
The relationship is mutually rewarding. The retinue of hawkers engaged by the drug industry (who go by the glorified name of ‘medical representatives’) keep a sharp eye on the medicines being prescribed by the doctors The quantum and value of the ‘benefits’ depend on the extent to which branded drugs are prescribed by the doctors. The Government has failed to put an end to this unholy practice. The reason is obvious. Many life-saving drugs used in diseases like cancer, etc., are patented and the manufacturers sell them at exorbitant prices which have no relationship with their cost of production. People are forced to buy such costly drugs because companies manufacturing such drugs hold patent rights which prevent others from developing and marketing cheaper alternatives. These drug companies have their benefactors in the higher echelons of the government, both at the political and bureaucratic levels. In the circumstances, the people will welcome the banning of three hundred odd drugs and hope the ban will be rigorously enforced.

Friday, 14 September, 2018