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Indians pay 70% less than the global median to buy medicines, study finds

A study compared the prices of drug compounds across the world and found that only Thailand, Kenya, Malaysia and Indonesia are cheaper than India.

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New Delhi: Indians have to pay 70 per cent less than the rest of the world to buy medicines, a study has revealed.

According to Medbelle, the London- and Berlin-based digital healthcare provider, India is among the five cheapest countries in the world for medicines, with prices that are 73.82 per cent less than the global median.

Thailand tops the list, with 93 per cent lower prices than the global median for both branded and generic drugs, closely followed by Kenya, Malaysia and Indonesia.


The study is based on a comparative index across 50 countries, which reveals the cost differences for some of the world’s most widely-used medicines, such as erectile dysfunction drug Viagra, high cholesterol drug Lipitor, common antibiotic Zithromax and insulin Lantus. 

Medbelle selected 13 popularly used pharmaceutical compounds and made “a comparison on a pound-for-pound basis of how much medicines cost in different countries, regardless of whether covered by a healthcare system, or paid directly from the individual’s pocket”. 

“The medications chosen for comparison span a variety of common conditions; from heart disease and asthma, to anxiety disorders and erectile dysfunction,” the start-up said. 

Graphic by Soham Sen | ThePrint

The survey used the average prices of both the brand compound and its generic versions and normalised the dosage size in order to make the price comparable.

In India, for example, Viagra is sold at a price that is 41 per cent less than the world median, whereas Lipitor is around 85 per cent cheaper. Antibiotic Azithromycin and its branded version Zithromax is available 89 per cent cheaper whereas insulin Glargine (Lantus brand) is 88 per cent cheaper. 

Also read: Hundreds of colleges came up amid India’s pharma boom. Here’s why govt wants no more

India should be cheapest

According to industry experts, India should ideally be the country with the cheapest medicines.

“However, the study has picked certain molecules, so it does not throw an overall picture. Moreover, it has chosen patented drugs as well, which are distributed free in least developed countries like Kenya, which brings their median prices lower than India,” a pharma expert told ThePrint.

“Also, in Thailand and Malaysia, the access to these patented drugs is more through compulsory licencing provision. Hence, cherry-picking certain drugs has pushed India to fifth position, otherwise India sells the cheapest medicines to the globe,” said the pharma expert. 

Most expensive countries

Americans pay the most for medicines — about 300 per cent more than the global media. Viagra costs around $76 in the US while Indians pay $6. Ireland pays the least amount for Viagra, around $0.55.

Graphic by Soham Sen | ThePrint

For Zithromax, the US pays $16 against India’s $0.28, the lowest prices of the drug.

Germany (125 per cent more than the rest of the world), the UAE (122 per cent), Italy (90 per cent) and Denmark (80 per cent) are the other most expensive countries in the world.

Also readIndia again lobbies with Beijing to sell its generic medicines amid US-China trade war


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  1. For once, I was glad to see Pakistan left out. May be lack of data. But being totally Ignored is the best medicine forr a failed states like North Korea, Pakistn and Afghanistan.

  2. Okay..this is a good thing to know but
    They should try to find out how many people in India can afford these medicines(not talking about erectile dysfunction), considering our purchase power.
    In india where around 42% of people are living below poverty line earning less than 90Rs per day, It would be more important to highlight their inability to purchase medicines.

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