Under a proposal being discussed, India’s government could become the country’s only purchaser of patented drugs and medical devices, marking the first time that a government would not only buy meds for government programs, but also become the sole supplier for private health care providers,PharmaTimes reports.
Innovative new meds remain financially well out of reach for the majority of India’s 1.13 billion population, and even for most of its large and growing middle class, which currently numbers up to 350 million people. And some observers say that monopoly purchasing of patented drugs and devices at single negotiated prices in India would bring enormous benefits to both consumers and drugmakers.
Patients would presumably gain access to effective new treatments because of large discounts that government negotiators would be able to demand by dealing directly with manufacturers, and drugmakers would benefit from assured bulk contracts and cost savings, as they would no longer need to promote their products to retailers, private hospitals and pharmacies.
The proposal would not authorize the central government to assume distribution responsibilities. Instead, purchased patented drugs and devices would be released directly to the country’s state governments, Indian Railways (the world’s biggest employer), private hospitals and other health care providers.
However, other commentators warn the scheme could actually lead to treatment worsening for patients, due to the difficulties of ensuring continuous supplies and also because monopoly purchasing of one product from a range of equivalents could deny them the treatment that is right for them. Permitting large providers to also negotiate directly with drugmakers would keep the market competitive, they add.
Moreover, while a recent forecast shows India’s domestic drug market will increase from a current value of $12.2 billion to $17.8 billion by 2012, the share accounted for by patented products will continue to decline, and many observers expect it to be less than 10 percent by 2015. Therefore, they say, the proposal would have very little impact on improving access to medicines for India’s population, PharmaTimes reports.