India's federal cabinet Thursday approved a policy to bring more generic medicines under price control, a senior government official said, going ahead with a plan that has faced stiff resistance from local and foreign drug makers.
The official didn't provide any details on the decision taken by the cabinet.
In September, a panel of ministers recommended extending price restrictions to 348 "essential" drugs - including cancer and HIV medicines - that aren't covered under the current pricing policy that sets prices for 74 drug compounds and their combinations.
While the government's efforts to bring more drugs under price control are aimed at making medicines affordable for the poor, local and foreign drug producers argue that there is enough competition to ensure that medicines sold in India are among the cheapest in the world.
Nongovernment health groups that support tighter price controls say consumers don't always benefit from competition because of market distortions, like some doctors pushing the more expensive drugs or patients being unaware of less-costly alternatives.
The government intervention in the pricing of drugs comes even as multinational drug companies in India are reeling from denials of patent protections for several expensive therapies that have been granted intellectual property rights elsewhere in the world.
India's current drug-pricing policy, which dates to the mid-1990s, sets price caps for 74 drug compounds by determining their manufacturing cost and adding a maximum profit margin.
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