India expands drug pricing with caps for two antibiotics

India has fought for more price caps on essential medicines in the country, with a parliamentary committee in April lobbying for expanded government price control despite pushback from Big Pharma. Now, as part of its latest crusade, the country is extending price caps for two more antibiotics and setting new prices for certain branded meds.

As Reuters reports, India's National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) put price caps on the 250 mg strength of antibiotic ciprofloxacin hydrochloride and the 250 mg and 500 mg strengths of cefotaxim. The NPPA also laid out new retail prices for specific brands of drugs, including meds for diabetes and hypertension.

The move comes as Indian officials take an increasingly tough stance on pricing for essential meds. In 2013, the government expanded its list of drugs eligible for price caps to 652 and classifying 348 as essential drugs. In December 2014, the NPPA extended its pricing policies to cover 52 more drugs, including commonly used painkillers and antibiotics and drugs for cancer and skin disease.

In April, the government said it would expand its price caps even further to include drugs that treat conditions such as HIV and TB. India's government already offers free HIV and TB treatments at state clinics and distribution centers, but the new policy would cap the drugs' prices when used at private clinics, sources told Reuters at the time. Indian officials didn't spell out which meds would be targeted for price caps.

India's Supreme Court is also taking a hard look at drug pricing in the country. Last week, the court ordered nongovernmental organization All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN) to come up with a game plan for regulating drug prices. The group claimed that costs are too high for many essential meds and that the government's list doesn't include enough lifesaving drugs. And India's pricing for essential meds can be substantially higher than caps set in the states, the Supreme Court said at the time, which "does not seem reasonable and rational."

Meanwhile, Big Pharma continues to feel the sting of India's pricing pressures in other ways. Patent officials in the country have revoked IP protections for a slew of products, and domestic drugmakers are challenging foreign companies' patents. Indian officials also issued a compulsory license, forcing Bayer to let Natco Pharma make a cheap version of its cancer treatment Nexavar. While most other compulsory license applications have failed, one is still pending.

- read the Reuters story