The Department of Pharmaceuticals is toying with the idea of introducing barcodes on every medicine cover embedded with maximum retail price (MRP) in an effort to prevent retailers selling products above MRP and also counterfeit medicines invading the market.
Although the proposal is at a nascent stage, the pharma sector is already worried and opposing the move, an official said.
While the move could benefit the consumer by ensuring that no retailer sells any product above the MRP, pharma players say that the government would find it tough to implement it in rural and tier II and III cities.
An executive with a pharma firm pointed out that small towns might not have the requisite machinery to scan bar codes.
“How will a retailer scan the price on the bar-code if he doesn’t have the requisite mechanism for it? Does it mean a retailer will stop selling drugs just because he is incapable of scanning the price?,” he asked.
Pharma sector players also fear sales might take a hit if this is enforced. “Many places in India have frequent power cuts .This means, sale of drugs will come to a stand-still for long hours,” said an executive, without realizing the fact that several general merchants in smaller towns are already using barcode scanners to scan barcodes on products at Point of Sale counters.
For the drug regulator, however, drug prices will be available on a central server for it to monitor. The proposal should be seen in the context of bar-coding, an official said. Pharma associations have been opposing the idea of bar-coding for domestic sales, saying that drug companies will have to bring down production by 30 per cent.
But, the government initiated the process of making bar codes essential for all drugs to stop counterfeit drugs from being sold in the domestic and international markets. Meanwhile, pharma associations are trying to convince the government that bar-coding should not be made compulsory for domestic sales.