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GoM on pharma postpones key meet

BS Reporter/New Delhi 17 Nov 12 | 12:55 AM

Despite a Supreme Court deadline of November 27 on its head, the Group of Ministers (GoM) on the proposed drug pricing policy revamp did not keep its scheduled meeting today.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who heads the GoM, was away in Mumbai. M K Alagiri, minister for chemicals and fertiliser, and his junior minister, Srikant Kumar Jena, were also out of Delhi, government officials said. The latter ministry is the administrative one for the pharmaceutical industry.

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Also, said officials, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, a special invitee to the GoM from this week, and Kapil Sibal, part of the ministerial panel, were also unavailable.

The proposed policy, expected to be tabled in the previous meeting of the cabinet, was referred back to the GoM by the prime minister’s office (PMO) following last-minute opposition from the finance ministry. The PMO suggested Chidambaram attend the GoM meeting and discuss the concerns raised by the department of expenditure. Following this, the GoM was slated to meet today and arrive at a consensus.

The Supreme Court is to hear the same issue on November 27. After repeated slamming from the apex court, the government had indicated a tentative time line of November 25 for notifying a new policy. According to government and industry officials, the GoM is now planning to meet on Tuesday or Wednesday, so that the matter can be taken up in the cabinet on November 22.

Both the industry and health activists are concerned about the delay.

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