NOVARTIS DRUGS BLACKLISTED BY MUMBAI STORES

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DRUG retailers in Mumbai are boycotting all the 198 medicines of Swiss company Novartis and its subsidiary Sandoz, protesting the drugmakers’ practice of selling some highvalue medicines directly to consumers.

More than 7,000 drug retailers and wholesalers have stopped selling the companies’ products from April 1. They accuse the firms of violating the drug price control order (DPCO) by selling to the consumer at a price that included retail margins.

The two companies have been selling drugs such as Glivec, Sandostatin Lar and Femara used in the treatment of cancer directly to patients for some years. They have been trying to resolve the dispute with chemists and stockists through negotiations, but in vain.

“We are in dialogue with trade associations on the issue,” a Novartis spokeswoman said.

But Dilip Mehta, president of the joint committee of Retail Dispensing Chemists and Druggists Association and Pharmaceutical Wholesalers’ Association, said, “Novartis and Sandoz had promised to stop selling its drugs directly to consumers, but have not kept their commitment.”

The associations have threatened to call a national boycott if the companies continue this practice. Direct selling of drugs to customers at market prices creates problems of both affordability and accessibility to patients, said Mr Mehta.

As per research firm ORG IMS’ data, Novartis (along with Sandoz) is ranked among the top 25 drug firms in India. It has an annual turnover of around Rs 550 crore in India.

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