KATHMANDU, June 29: Medical treatment for the poor has become more difficult and expensive as the government has raised the price of life-saving intravenous (IV) drip by up to 100 percent.
As per the new price schedule made public by the Department of Drug Administration (DDA), the national regulatory body of drugs, 500ml of 5-percent dextrose saline, that cost Rs 35 in the past, now costs Rs 70.
Similarly, the normal saline -- just a sterile solution of sodium chloride -- available at Rs 29 per 500 ml plastic bottle now costs Rs 45 while the price of the same in glass bottle has been raised to Rs 50 from Rs 35.
Saline is considered a very vital life-saving drug as it substitutes as food and water for those who cannot ingest orally. Treatment of critical patients is almost impossible in lack of the IV drip. DDA had raised the prices two weeks ago saying foreign drug companies refused to supply the life-saving fluid at the existing rates. DDA claimed it was compelled to raise the price due to crisis of the fluid in health centers across the country.
“Had we not raised the price of saline, the situation would have been catastrophic by now. It is a life saving drug, without which treatment of patients cannot be imagined,” Director General of DDA Radha Raman Prasad said. DDA determines the price of essential drugs in the country.
DG Prasad said the new price was determined by a price fixation committee that included representatives of the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), consumer groups, Association of the Pharmaceutical Producers of Nepal and other stakeholders. He said the foreign drug companies refused to supply saline at the previous rates citing rise in the value of US dollar and transportation costs.
At present, Nepali pharmaceutical companies do not produce saline. Two companies -- Nepal Drugs Limited (NDL), a government-owned company, and Vijaydeep Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd used to manufacture saline in Nepal but they have stopped now on the orders of the DDA, that questioned the quality of saline produced by Vijaydeep and lack of WHO Good Manufacturing Practice at both the companies.
Production of saline by the two companies had played important role in checking the price of saline, according to Prasad, and with these companies no longer in the saline market -- which is worth billions of rupees -- Indian manufacturers rule the roost.