Indian government is likely to control the higher selling prices of the H1N1 drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir by bringing in certain ceiling in the maximum retail price, reports said.
Currently, cost of 10 oseltamivir pills for a five-day course treatment range from Rs 450 to Rs 800.
The government could intervene with some price control strategies for oseltamivir if the market forces cannot control the price hike, stated reports quoting officials from the ministry of chemicals and fertilizers said.
Even as oseltamivir prices in the open market prices remain high, the government procurement price of H1N1 pills has come down substantially from Rs 343 to Rs 260 for 10 tablets since the outbreak of the disease in India.
The pharma industry attribute the rise in prices to the shortage and high procurement costs of the key raw material used in the production of oseltamivir.
In September, Indian government has allowed generic companies such as Natco Pharma, Hetero Drugs and Strides Arcolab to sell copycat version of oseltamivir in the open market through retail drug stores.
Government was keeping the distribution of oseltmivir restricted through public health centres to ensure prompt supply and overuse of the H1N1 medicine.
The ban on retail sales of oseltamivir has been removed by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare on 15th September, 2009 by issuing notification under Section 26 E of the Drugs and Cosmetic Act, 1940.
However, despite the launch of generic versions of oseltamivir pills, there is a near-monopoly scene in the market, chemists said.
The only oseltamivir product available with most of the licensed chemists in Delhi is Hetero’s brand Fluvir.
A strip of 10 tablets of Hetero’s Fluvir cost Rs 449.
The other alternative to oseltamivir, the inhaled drug zanamivir generic is sold by Cipla under the brand name Virenza is priced at around Rs 800 for a pack of 20 rotacaps (powdered medication stored in a capsule) along with an inhaler, according to chemists in Delhi.
Natco Pharma has launched its brand Natflu at a price of Rs 480 for a bottle of 10 capsules. Natco’s retail price includes excise component and margins for distribution and stockists.
Natco Pharma said it could supply Natflu pills to the goverment at around Rs 275 per 10 tablets because the supplies meant for government does not include taxes and distributor’s margin.
Natco’s low quoting price for government quotation to purchase oseltamivir has fuelled a pricing confusion among its rival companies who have quoted figures that come somewhere around the government’s purchasing price.
Strides Arcolab also launched Starflu – the company’s generic version of H1N1 swine flu drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu) in India at Rs 460 per strip that contains 10 capsules in 75 mg strength meant for adults.
The health department, which was maintaining an oseltamivir stockpile of 10 million doses, has already exhausted or decentralized over 7.5 million capsules to distribute them to the H1N1 infected states.
Now the health ministry plans to buy another 20 million doses of oseltamivir soon for its reserve. The government has alerted and asked the domestic companies like Ranbaxy Labs, Cipla, Natco Pharma, Strides Arcolab, Hetero Drugs and Roche India to be ready to supply for an order of 20 million capsules at short notice.
On September 1, Daiichi Ranbaxy Laboratories got orders from the Centre to supply 900,000 doses of oseltamivir- the generic version of Roche’s anti-viral Tamiflu – used to treat the H1N1 flu, a Ranbaxy spokesman said.
India is planning to bring swine flu vaccines in India by mid December as December and January are the two months when the flu-related cases are traditionally been reported mostly in the country.
Meanwhile, India’s death toll related to H1N1 swine flu infection crossed the 400 mark, following a fresh bout of attack in certain major cities.