29 March 2010
By Rema Nagarajan
Pharma Cos Offer Them New Products At Very Cheap Rates
Many vaccine manufacturers are offering vaccines at hugely reduced prices to doctors, many of whom charge the full price from patients, pocketing the difference. The greater the discount, the bigger the profit margin for the doctor. So when a doctor pushes a vaccine that is not part of the universal immunisation programme, it would be difficult to decide whether he is thinking of your child’s health or his pocket.
A study by Dr Rakesh Lodha of the Department of Paediatrics, AIIMS, and Dr Anurag Bhargav of Jan Swasthya Sahyog in Chhattisgarh, published in a recent issue of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, reveals the huge difference in the price of vaccines offered to doctors. “The percentage margin between the price to doctors and the MRP ranges from 30% to 69%,while in rupee terms, the discount over the MRP per vaccine dose ranges from Rs 85 to Rs 620,’’ the study says.
Many vaccines require giving three or more doses and hence the profit margin could be as high as Rs 1,800 per child vaccinated. Interestingly, the vaccines being offered at hugely discounted prices to doctors are not those that are recommended for universal immunisation. Such aggressive promotion is for new and expensive vaccines and combination vaccines whose use in the Indian context is “not well established in terms of epidemiological rationale or costbenefit analysis’’, says Dr Lodha.
In yet another study, consultant paediatrician Dr Yash Paul from Jaipur found that the difference between the MRP and the price for doctors or chemists is very small for vaccines which are part of the National Immunisation Programme. The huge discount of Rs 500-600 is only for the newer vaccines. Dr Paul points out that doctors would be tempted to administer newer discounted vaccines which give them a huge profit margin.