India raises prices of 800 drugs by almost 11 per cent

Increase sought by manufacturers comes amid steep rise in cost of living

A worker in Hyderabad packs medicines to be distributed to households with coronavirus symptoms in Telangana state in January. AFP

India on Friday increased the prices of more than 800 drugs, including over-the-counter painkillers and antibiotics, by almost 11 per cent, an unprecedented rise.

The increase applies to some of the most commonly used drugs used for hypertension, infections, heart disease and skin conditions. It will also affect insulin injections, multi-vitamin tablets, steroids used to treat Covid-19 and some contraceptives.

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority said last week that an increase of 10.76 per cent would be applied from April 1 to more than 800 drugs and medical devices based on the Wholesale Price Index.

The index measures the price of goods in the stages before the retail level, including the cost of raw materials for medicines such as salts.

The increase is the biggest announced by the authority since it was created in 1997 to control prices of essential medicines, but only about half of what manufacturers were seeking.

India’s pharmaceutical industry is the world's third-largest in terms of volume and is worth $42 billion.

The price rise comes at a time when Indians are struggling with high inflation and spiralling fuel prices.

“Everything is getting expensive. We are already struggling with fuel price hikes for the past 10 days. Now we have to pay extra even for medicines for fever and headache,” said Prateek Rathi, 33, a resident of the Noida area near New Delhi.

Pharmaceutical companies say the increase was needed because of rising production costs.

“The prices of the raw materials, active pharma ingredients, freight rates and packing materials have gone up. It is this combination that has led to an overall increase. It was causing the pressure of unviability on the industry,” said Ashok Kumar Madan, executive director of the Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association.

“This has come as a reprieve. This is the first time when prices have been increased in double digits,” he told The National.

He said the industry had been pitching for a 20 per cent increase in the price of over-the-counter medications.

The pharmaceutical pricing authority raised prices by 0.5 per cent last year. Its highest annual increase previously was 4.26 per cent in 2019.

Updated: April 01, 2022, 6:01 AM