The abnormal rise in the retail price of pharmaceutical products in recent times is unnerving as the price variation down the chain — from manufacturer to retailer — sometimes touches an outrageous 1,900 per cent. Take, for instance, the retail price of an antibiotic called Ciproflaxacine which is 788 per cent more than the price paid for it by the government’s Logistic Management Division (LMD) for its eventual distribution among the health posts

and centres across the nation. Likewise, Albendazole 400 mg’s acquisition price is Rs. 0.78 and its retail price ranges between Rs. 15 and 20. Even the 50 paisa retail price of paracetamol is way above the LMD’s cost price of 22 paisa.

Thanks to the unregulated market, official incompetence and the lack of a veritable consumer movement, drug manufacturers and pharmacists are charging as much as they wish. The Department of Drug Administration, which is authorised to fix price ceilings for drugs, has transformed itself into a mute spectator to the racket on rampage. The unhealthy competition among manufacturers has encouraged the trend of offering lavish gifts, bonus, discounts, and other incentives to wholesalers, retailers, and even doctors, a practice which hikes up the price of drugs manifold. The manufacturers claim to keep a 15-20 per cent profit, while the stockists, super-stockists and wholesalers cut a 10-15 per cent margin. Only a strict market monitoring and enforcement of rules and regulations can keep the prices from skyrocketing.