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Bitter Pill for Aam Aadmi, Achhe Din for Pharma

As a pro-poor policy measure the UPA government had capped the prices of drugs used in
the treatment of Diabetes, Cancer, Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, Malaria , Asthma,
Cardiovascular diseases and other life threatening illnesses.

The BJP government has reversed this decision. On September 24th 2014, BJP-government
withdrew key guidelines issued by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority.

In doing so Shri Modis government has knelt down to the pressure of multi-national
pharmaceutical giants, US administration and domestic drug manufacturers. For Shri Modis
American visa and PR exercise, this is a very heavy price that has been thrust on Indias poor
and ailing.

"While this move will get Modi good PR and earn the corporate houses undeserved profits,
the common man - the middle and lower class Indian - will be left devastated by the sheer
insensitivity of this move," said Congress General Secretary Ajay Maken.

Earlier, the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, through a notification in May 2014, had
delegated power to regulate prices of Life Saving Drugs to the NPPA, which in turn had
capped prices of a broad spectrum of Life Saving Drugs.

The timing of the withdrawal of the notification does raise eyebrows as it came a day before
Shri Modi left for his US visit. It is clear the BJP government is out to serve the interests of
the United States pharma industry, members of which have filed litigations against price
control in Delhi and Bombay courts.

The rushed and opaque manner in which this has been done clearly points to the fact that the
current government is keen to sacrifice domestic interests to please US based players who
have a very substantial stake in the Indian pharmaceutical industry.

This move demonstrates what the Congress has long been saying perception is a greater
priority for this government than substance.

In this case it can be inferred that this is an attempt by the BJP government to create a
favorable atmosphere in the United States prior to Shri Modis visit even if it is at the cost of
crippling poor families and taking treatment of life threatening diseases out of their reach.

The Opinion given by the Solicitor General, ironically, militates against public interest. It is
based on a legal technicality that the NPPAs Orders invoking public interest are not in
consonance with the Drug Pricing Control Order 2013. He has also opined that this power
should be exercised sparingly under truly extraordinary circumstances. We ask if the
treatment of Diabetes, HIV, Cancer, TB, Malaria and heart diseases are not extraordinary
then what is?

What makes this even worse is that there was no reason for the Government to withdraw this
order. The Courts have yet to give any direction to this effect.