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23 Nov 2012

The government is distributing a sweet pill to diabetics. It has issued a diktat that irrespective of the brand, all domestically–produced insulin should cost between Rs135-145 per packet, depending on the quantity, while all brands of imported insulin will be priced in the Rs160–200.

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), which is under the ministry of chemicals and fertilizers, has brought out this ceiling price. Currently, while some domestic brands cost around Rs145 per packet, those by multinationals cost Rs169–480.

Doctors say that pricing has been the biggest barrier as many patients defer taking insulin because they cannot afford to spend so much on it.

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Patients spend anywhere between Rs1,000-1,500 or even more on insulin every month, says Dr AK Jhingan, director of Delhi Diabetes Research Centre.

"The syringes used to inject the insulin carry an additional charge of around Rs70 for a pack of 10. Capping prices is a welcome move. Diabetes is a life-long ailment," he adds.

India is home to over 61 million diabetics as per estimates by the International Diabetes Federation. By 2030, the number is expected to touch the 100 million mark.

"Taking insulin when necessary improves the patient’s quality of life and reduces diabetes–related complications. Bringing all brands under the price cap will reduce instances of doctors prescribing only particular brands," says Jhingan.

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According to Dr Vinod Gujral, head of department, diabetes and lifestyle disorders, National Heart Institute, several diabetologists have shifted patients to local brands as the imported insulin brands cost more than the domestic ones.

"Along with the price cap, the sales tax on insulin should be abolished across the country to make it cheaper," he says.

Diabetes comes in two forms – type 1 and type 2. While patients with type 1 depend on external insulin, those with type 2 who are treated with medicines may also require insulin if medications fail to control blood sugar levels.

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