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Heparin Medicine

Heparin Medicine

Context:

National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has allowed pharmaceutical companies to increase the ceiling price of heparin medicine heparin by 50 percent until December 31.

Background:

  • NPPA used emergency powers provided to it under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 2013.
  • NPPA in extra-ordinary circumstances fixes the retail price of any drug regardless of whether they were under or eligible for price control under normal circumstances.
  • The Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 2013 also allows NPPA to increase or decrease their prices irrespective of the annual wholesale price index of that year.
  • In 2019, for the first time, NPPA increased the prices of medicines under price control, where it hiked, by 50 percent, prices of 21 drugs integral to public health programs and often used as the first line of treatment.
    • This included the BCG vaccine for tuberculosis, vitamin C, antibiotics like metronidazole and benzylpenicillin, anti-malarial drug chloroquine and leprosy medication dapsone

Heparin Medicine:

  • Heparin is an essential medicine and uses as a blood thinner. It has been given to the patient vulnerable to blood clots in their legs, lungs, heart, or other body parts. 
  • It is also used to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and pulmonary embolism. 
  • It is also given to those requiring kidney dialysis.
  • This drug has been included by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in its clinical management guidelines for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

Reasons for the price hike:

  • Shortage: Heparin is very essential to high-risk patients and NPPA had capped heparin’s ceiling price in 2018. However, there have been also instances of a shortage of this drug during the pandemic.
  • Cost of production: The active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), which forms a considerable amount of the cost of making the drug in India, has increased significantly. These ingredients are crucial elements in drug production as they give medicines their therapeutic effect.
    • According to an expert committee, since 2018, the price of API has shot up 211 %. With the maximum price that companies can charge for the drug fixed, but the API costs rising, now the companies claimed it had become unviable to continue manufacturing and selling the drug in India.
  • Import from China: The heparin sodium API for the injections made in India imports from China. Some companies mentioned that there are not many alternative manufacturers for the API in India.
  • Dependency on China: This is the case with several APIs used in India’s pharma industry. India is heavily relying on China for various APIs used to make crucial antibiotics and vitamins. Even the API and other key ingredients for popular painkillers are imported from China.
    • In the last three-six months, prices of APIs from China have gone up 20-35 %.
      • Of the over $3.5 billion worth of ingredients that Indian companies imported to manufacture several essential medicines in 2018-19, China catered to around 68%.

Source: Indian Express