Retail Vaccine Prices Highly Inflated: Study
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29 March 2010
By Rema Nagarajan
If the difference between the MRP and cost to the doctors is equal or nominal, doctors may consider the comparative merits of the vaccines instead,’’ says the Jaipur-based Dr Yash Paul. He cites the example of the DPT vaccine, recommended for universal immunisation, which has an MRP of Rs 15.50, and given to doctors at the discounted price of Rs 12.50, a minimal difference, whereas the MRP of DaPT, a modified newer version of DPT, is Rs 699 and the cost for doctors is Rs 595.
In addition to sending private letters to physicians, companies have now started advertising the price of their vaccines to doctors in medical journals. Chiron Panacea has placed advertisements in paediatrics journals quoting the price of the pentavalent vaccine Easyfive at Rs 275 to the doctor while its MRP is Rs 585. “While physicians will incur some costs for the storage of vaccines, the margin of profit is still huge, and could be termed as profiteering. Such high margins are difficult to find in other professions or industries or in the case of other goods,’’ say Dr Lodha and Dr Bhargava.
The study concludes that such huge margins on offer clearly indicate that the retail prices being paid by parents and patients are highly inflated. “The companies can afford to sell their vaccines for far lower prices without a loss in profitability. This indicates that there is scope for a substantial reduction in vaccine prices,’’ say Dr Lodha and Dr Bhargava, arguing that such practices could be curbed only by placing vaccines back under price control as was the case till 1995.