The Centre’s new draft for the pharmaceutical policy, which will replace the existing one, has come under attack for keeping the civil society in the dark over the changes.
A fresh meeting on the Centre’s new draft for the pharmaceutical policy has been rescheduled for the end of this month after the earlier meeting on June 23 was canceled following objections from civil society, as none of its members were invited for the same.
The draft pharmaceutical policy looks to define the role of the government in providing health care for all. It includes everything from the pricing of drugs to intellectual property rights to composition of the drugs and how and when they are distributed.
The draft policy, spearheaded by the department of pharmaceuticals under the ministry of chemicals and fertilizers, has come under much scrutiny of both civil society and industries over the past few weeks, sources say.
Civil society members allege that they were deliberately excluded from the meeting. Despite the announcement of a fresh meeting, the society is still concerned about the draft policy. According to them, the draft has not been circulated to any of the stakeholders. The stakeholders include both industry and the civil society.
“When the consultations were rescheduled in June, we expected that the ministry will take a more people-based approach to the draft policy. Yet, the agenda seems central to the well-being of only the industry. We are concerned that health is marginalized due to this policy. We want a process that is consultative and transparent," said Malini Aisola of all India drug action network.
Despite the hush-hush nature of the draft, sources said Secretary of DoP Jai Priya Prakash has presented the policy to the NITI Aayog.
The NITI Aayog was recently in the news for trying to revamp the Drug Price Control Orders with an intention of making drugs more expensive in India.
A letter to the Prime Minister’s Office by the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch stated: “It has come to our notice that the NITI Aayog has contacted representatives of various ministries with the intention of framing a new drug policy and revamping the DPCO (Drug Price Control Order) 2013.
It is our understanding that this issue is sub-judice before the Supreme Court (W.P. (Civil) 423 of 2003) wherein the final hearing is underway. While the Supreme Court is already seized of the matter and the price fixation methodology, it is not appropriate for the government to make further modifications in the drug policy and DPCO 2013 to suit the ends of the pharmaceutical industry.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly mentioned accessible medicine as part of the government’s agenda. Therefore, the policy should be grounded in public health concerns, including accessibility, affordability, and rationality.
Many are concerned that this objective may not be met since the policy is being coordinated by the department of pharmaceuticals instead of the ministry of health and family welfare, the body which takes care of public access to medicine.
With the DoP spearheading the policy, concerns are that the industry objectives will be taken up on priority basis instead of that of public health concerns.