Aamir Khan opposes FDI in pharma sector before House panel

Posted In : Gossips
(added 22 Jun 2012)

Aamir Khan opposes FDI in pharma sector before House panelGeneric drugs - cheap yet highly effective - got a push from matinee crusader Aamir Khan who appeared before a parliamentary panel on Thursday to discuss the issue of FDI in the pharmaceutical sector.

The 47-year-old actor, who recently highlighted the issue of malpractices regarding the sale of medicines in his TV show Satyamev Jayate, was invited to appear as a witness before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce, which is examining FDI in the pharma sector.

The recent takeover of Indian firms making generic drugs by multi-national companies have raised fears that it will ultimately push up the prices of essential drugs.

The Union health ministry's internal assessment suggests the recent buy-offs will reduce domestic availability of many essential medicines that were earlier manufactured and sold by the acquired firms. The foreign MNCs had also raised their share of the domestic market from 15% to 25% five years ago.

The actor submitted a report on FDI in the sector, and his support for generic drugs before the panel. Khan after his meeting said certain "interested parties" have questioned the quality and "power" of such drugs which was not true.

"The regulatory body checks every drug before it is sold. Be it patented or non-patented, branded or unbranded," he said. "The main motive of big companies is to earn more. We understand that. "The issue here is how the poor get cheap medicine. The companies will benefit if they sell cheap drugs. Bulk sales will lower the profit margins but profit will remain. It is win-win situation for all," he said. The actor said other states should follow the example of Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, which are distributing free generic medicines to the poor after buying them at comparatively lower rates from companies.

Panel chief Shanta Kumar told TOI, "We are planning to submit our recommendations on FDI in pharma sector in the next parliamentary session. India was once seen as the pharmacy of the world till MNCs started taking over our generic drug companies that would increase their prices. Our meeting with Aamir Khan lasted for two and a half hours."

The PMO has also asked the health ministry to make "Free medicine for all through Public Health Facilities" under the National Rural Health Mission a reality. Purchasing drugs alone accounts for 72% of the out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditure. The sharp increase in prices of drugs has been the main reason for the rising costs of healthcare, which more than tripled between 1993-94 and 2006-07. India reported about 40% spurt in all drug prices between 1996 and 2006. The Planning Commission estimates that nearly 39 million Indians are pushed to poverty because of ill health every year.

Experts say India has the highest number of US-FDA approved plants outside the US. Most of these plants have multiple approvals from regulatory authorities in Canada, Australia and Germany. India also holds a strong position in producing generic drugs through reverse engineering. They also have a strong distribution network not only at home but in other middle-income countries that are an area of major interest for MNCs.

India's public health clinics are already facing a severe shortage of generic drugs. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently found that generic medicines were available only in 20%-40% of public health clinics surveyed. Experts say that low public sector availability forces patients to purchase medicines from the private sector, where prices are generally higher and are not always affordable.

(added 22 Jun 2012) / 1506 views

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