Prices of essential drugs and lifesaving medicines will increase by 12.12 per cent, as the Narendra Modi government allowed drug manufacturers to increase ceiling prices of around 900 scheduled drugs from April 1. This sharp increase in prices are in line with the change in the annual wholesale price index (WPI), which has risen by 12.2 percent in 2022.
Common people are already feeling the burden as prices of routine drugs, especially for diabetes, BP, arthritis and cancer has already increased by 20 percent in the last one year. LocalCircles, a Community Social Media platform, conducted a survey among 34,000 persons across the country. The survey found that 6 in 10 people persons have experienced on the ground a price increase of 20% in medicines in the last 12 months with 89% experiencing a significant increase in prices of specialised medicines and 57% of them confirming a significant price increase in prices of general medicines. From Saturday, they will have to pay 12 percent more for painkillers, anti-infectives, cardiac drugs and antibiotics, which are part of the list of essential medicines.
The government justified the price hike so that pharmaceutical companies remain profitable and there is no shortage in supply of essential medicines in the market. This increase is the highest since the price control came into force in 2013, and also this is the second year in a row that the prices have been increased by over 10 percent. Such high back-to-back drastic price hikes are undermining the purpose of price fixation of essential medicines making them unaffordable to common people. It need to be noted that the non-scheduled drugs outside price control are allowed an annual increase of 10 percent. So, the prices of controlled drug are rising more than that of non-controlled ones.
The government is more concerned about maintaining profits of the Pharma companies than the impact its decision will have on common people. With food inflation galloping higher and higher every year, and the real wage remaining constant or declining for most workers in the unorganized sector, the year-on-year sharp increase in prices of routine and essential drugs, will hurt the working-class people the most. The pain of this hike will be real.