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A case for uniform drug pricing policy

By Our Special Correspondent

JAIPUR, AUG. 19. Rajasthan has called for formulation of a uniform policy at the national level on the pricing and availability of drugs to do away with the discrepancies in the wholesale and retail prices of medicines and prevent the sale of spurious drugs.

The State Medical and Health Minister, Digambar Singh, and the Minister of State for Finance, Virendra Meena -- addressing a meeting convened by the Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers, Ram Vilas Paswan, in New Delhi on Wednesday -- pointed out that the disparity in prices was benefiting the middlemen and adversely affecting poor patients.

Dr. Singh said the tendency to take advantage of variance in prices was reported even in the cases of medical equipment and furniture. "The orthopaedic patients are the worst sufferers of such discrepancies. The situation needs to be set right at the earliest,'' he said.

The Minister drew the Centre's attention to this year's State Budget in which "special provisions'' had been made to check the exploitation of patients. He said no tax other than sales tax was levied on the drugs in Rajasthan and the medicines for treatment of tuberculosis, cancer and renal transplantation, antibiotic drugs, oral rehydration salt and vaccines had been kept completely out of the tax net.

Dr. Singh expressed concern over the likely rise in drug prices following the adoption of patent laws by the World Health Organisation and underlined the need for announcing a comprehensive drug policy at the national level that takes care of the pricing mechanism.

Mr. Meena suggested that all taxes be incorporated in the price of medicines and tax rates on the wholesale and retail prices be made uniform in all the States to protect the interest of consumers.

He said Rajasthan was ready to implement value added tax (VAT) at the rate of 4 per cent from April 1, 2005, while pointing out that the State Government had urged the Centre to compensate for the revenue losses incurred on this account. As of now, no octroi, surcharge, turnover tax or entry tax was levied on medicines in the State, he added.

Mr. Meena said the State Government had imposed sales tax on the retail prices from July 12 last to check the malpractices of sellers and the move had been welcomed by the consumers.

He said all confusion in the taxation sector would automatically come to an end once the VAT was brought into force.

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