India National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority: Shift from Medicines to Food Supplements

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority of India (NPPA) is attempting to crack down on pharmaceutical companies trying to escape governmental price regulations. Companies do so by shifting their products from the drug category to the dietary supplement segment. Experts state that this is an increasing and disconcerting trend in India. While the NPPA has the authority to monitor and fix the prices of drugs, it cannot take any action if the same drug is re-launched as a food supplement.

In the past, drug companies such as Ranbaxy, Merck, Trikko and Indochem, etc., all have transferred some of the products from the medicine category to the dietary supplement category. They received manufacturing licenses under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act. Several examples of brands include Evion 400, Revital, Recharge Plus and Sort Z Gold, which were all initially marketed as drugs but later became food supplements. Companies prefer to sell products as food supplements due to the fact that food supplements do not have price controls.

The NPPA is currently in touch with various organizations such as the Law Ministry, the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), and the office of the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for a coordinated effort to stop this loophole.

Experts estimate the current size of the Indian food supplements and nutraceutical market to be more than $2 billion, roughly 1.5% of the global nutraceutical industry. It is expected to reach about $5 billion in the next 5 years. In comparison, the US nutraceutical market currently stands at $50.4 billion, the largest in the world.