New Delhi: Top pharmaceutical companies in India, involved in the manufacturing of anti-viral drug remdesivir, have “volunteered to reduce” the drug’s price to less than Rs 3,500 per vial.
In a press statement issued Wednesday, the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers said, “Manufacturers of Remdesivir have volunteered to reduce the price to less than Rs 3500 by the end of this week, to support the efforts of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, to Fight against COVID. Manufactures of Remdesivir have been directed to give priority to fulfil hospital/institutional level supplies.”
The announcement comes hours after the Modi government’s decision to review the retail price of remdesivir to improve its affordability among Covid-19 patients.
Remdesivir is one of the most sought-after experimental drugs for the treatment of Covid patients and part of the country’s treatment protocol.
As Covid cases surge across the country, the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP), which works under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, and the National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority (NPPA), the drug price and availability regulator, are continuously monitoring the availability of the drug.
Both departments are also reviewing the high maximum retail price (MRP) of the drug, manufactured by seven top pharmaceutical companies in India.
In a meeting with the manufacturers Tuesday, chaired by Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of State, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, the issue of ramping production and variation in the MRP was discussed.
“The manufacturers have been asked to reconsider their prices as the variation is phenomenal. One player is selling the drug for Rs 900 per vial while the other is selling it for Rs 5,400 — which is at least 5 times more,” said an official who was part of the meeting.
“Otherwise, all manufacturers have ramped up the production capacity and doubled the manufacturing,” the official said.
The meeting was also attended by Shubhra Singh, chairman, NPPA, S. Aparna, Secretary, Department of Pharmaceuticals and Vinod Kotwal, member secretary, NPPA.
Responding to ThePrint’s email over the government’s price review, Rakesh Bamzai, president, India, Emerging Asia and Access markets, at Viatris (also known as Mylan) said: “We are closely partnering with the government to meet the patient needs in India and ensure access to this critical medicine.”
The email sent to other manufacturers remained unanswered until the time of publishing this report.
Price varies between Rs 899-Rs 5,400 per vial
Zydus Cadila’s brand Remdac is the cheapest generic version of Gilead Sciences’ injectable repurposed drug remdesivir which was launched in August last year at a price of Rs 2,800 per vial. It has now been reduced further to Rs 899.
According to the official quoted above, “the player selling the drug at lowest price (in remdesivir category) is also making some profits apart from giving 10 per cent profit margins to wholesalers and 20 per cent margins to retailers. The manufacturing process of the drug remains more or less the same for every pharma company. We are working on this concern and soon, it will be resolved.”
According to All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD), the country’s largest lobby of chemists and druggists, MRP of remdesivir sold by Hetero Labs and Dr. Reddy’s is Rs 5,400 per vial.
While Jubilant Life Sciences and Mylan’s drugs cost between Rs 4,700 to Rs 4,800 per vial, the price of the anti-viral drug sold by Cipla and Sun Pharma is Rs 4,000 and Rs 3,950 per vial, respectively.
“The families of patients are usually surprised by the difference in pricing among remdesivir’s brand and also question the efficacy of product selling at lower prices. There is no substantial reason for such high variation in prices,” said Rajiv Singhal, general secretary, AIOCD.
In March, Maharashtra’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had sent a proposal to the Central government to fix the ceiling price of the drug under the Drugs Price Control Order, 2013.
(Edited by Neha Mahajan)
The report has been updated to include Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers’ statement