Sixteen months after it was set up, an inter-ministerial group is set to finalise a new pharma policy for the country. A group of ministers (GoM) headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar is scheduled to meet on April 30 to finalise its recommendations for a policy that would attempt to balance the interests of the common man and the industry. The draft pharma policy before the GoM has called for increasing the span of price control on the Rs 55,000-crore domestic drug market from the current 20 per cent to over 35 per cent. This would mean an addition of 354 drugs to the list of price-controlled medicines. This is the fourth meeting of the GoM since it was set up on January 11, 2007. The GoM is also expected to give recommendations on the regulation of trade margins on all medicines, public procurement of drugs, price negotiation of patented drugs and medical devices, in addition to the legislation of new Acts to compound all drugs-related offences. The GoM has already heard the views of stakeholders, the Department of Chemicals, the drug industry and the health NGOs, in its previous meetings. According to sources, the previous meeting of the GoM, held on January 30, 2008, saw medicine price regulator, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), defending the need for a stricter price control regime. The NPPA recently hinted that the future policies on medicine price regulation should be based on “essentiality” rather than actual cost-based price fixation. Responding to the NPPA view, the domestic drug industry had identified over-regulation of the sector as a barrier to affordable medicines. The GoM was constituted due to the intense lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry, which felt alarmed by the proposals in the draft pharma policy aimed at increasing the span of price control. The industry is hoping that the GoM will recognise the role of market forces and competition in deciding the prices of medicines.