KATHMANDU, Jan 13: Nepalis are being forced to pay as much as eight times the price of foreign medicines for the same medicines manufactured in Nepal even though the government has been providing significant subsidies for domestic drug companies.
A comparative analysis by Republica of 13 pairs of foreign and domestic medicines with the same generic names found that consumers have been burdened with a hefty price for the domestic stuff as the Drugs Management Department has not worked out the correct prices.
The government has been providing zero customs duty and 20 percent discount on excise for raw materials for domestic manufacturers. Foreign medicines are charged 5 to 7 percent customs. Yet, the domestic medicines are costlier.
Of the 13 pairs of medicines, the generic name Ramipril has been found to have the greatest disparity in price. Ramip-2.5 manufactured by Deurali Janata Pharmaceuticals Private Limited (DJPPL) costs 8.2 times its imported counterpart Cardace-2.5. The maximum retail price (MRP) of Ramip-2.5 is Rs 11 per tablet while that of Cardace-2.5 is Rs 1.34 per tablet. Both medicines are used for high blood pressure.
Similarly, Hipolip-20, another medicine that DJPPL manufactures, is found to be 3.21 times costlier than its foreign counterpart Actal-20. These medicines have the generic name Atorvastatin and are used by heart patients.
Another medicine, Vogligem-0.2, which is manufactured by National Healthcare Private Limited (NHPL), costs 2.46 times its foreign counterpart Megaoag-0.2. The Nepali medicine is Rs 11 per tablet while the foreign one costs Rs 4.48. The medicines have the generic name Voglibose and are used by diabetes patients.
Apart from medicines for high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, price disparities have also been found for prostate drugs, painkillers and antibiotics.
Nepal Pharmaceuticals Laboratory Private Limited, Magnus Pharmaceuticals Private Limited, Om Pharmaceuticals Private Limited and Asian Pharmaceuticals Private Limited have been manufacturing these medicines.
Advocate Kedar Karki has accused the manufacturers of cheating consumers. He claimed that consumers are forced to pay such a hefty amount due to lax government oversight. “The government has been providing a range of subsidies for domestic medicines and yet they have been cheating the consumers,” he said.
The manufacturing companies, however, defended the price disparity, citing higher operating costs. Chairman of DJPPL, Hari Bhakta Sharma, claimed that domestic medicines cannot be called over-priced since the cost of manufacturing in Nepal is high. “The price difference is also the result of lower demand for indigenous drugs and lower volumes of production,” he said.
Similarly, Managing Director (MD) of Om Pharmaceuticals Private Limited, Sudarshan Shrestha, claimed that the price disparity is due to difference in quality between domestic and foreign medicines. MD of Magnus Pharmaceuticals Private Limited, Prem Jatiya, had a similar opinion. Sales Manager of NHPL, Gobinda Raj Dahal, claimed that medicines manufactured by NHPL are in fact cheaper than the competition.