ET Bureau Dec 14, 2019, 07.08 AM IST

New Delhi: India invoked extraordinary powers in public interest for the first time to grant a 50% increase in the prices of 21 drug formulations, including ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) tablets, certain antibiotic tablets and syrups, medicines to treat leprosy and malaria and BCG vaccines, citing higher ingredient costs.

The National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority (NPPA) invoked paragraph 19 of the Drug Prices Control Order, which until now has been used only to reduce the prices of stents and knee implants.

Industry lobby groups had met senior officials of the Department of Pharmaceuticals, urging them to increase the prices of these formulations, ET had reported on December

12. NPPA deliberated upon the matter and issued the notification on Friday.

With the cost of raw material imported from China increasing 50-200%, pharmaceutical lobby groups had approached the government to invoke extraordinary powers and increase the prices of drugs.

Over 70% of India’s bulk drug requirement comes from China. These bulk drugs or active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) are used to produce medicines, including antibiotics, vitamins and folic acid.

Noting that these formulations are “low priced drugs and have been under repeated price control,” NPPA invoked the extraordinary powers in public interest for “upward revision of ceiling prices of the 21 scheduled formulations of 12 drugs.”

Most of these drugs are used as the first line of treatment and are crucial to the public health programme of the country, the NPPA said.

“The one-time 50% price increase is arbitrary. The government needs to put in place a system for monitoring API prices and fluctuations,” said S Srinivasan, co-convenor of All India Drugs Action Network.