Who Benefits from Pharmaceutical Price Controls? Evidence from India - Working Paper 509

April 23, 2019


With the goal of driving down drug costs, governments across the globe have instituted various forms of pharmaceutical price control policies. Understanding the impacts of such policies is particularly important in low- and middle-income countries, where lack of insurance coverage means that prices can serve as a barrier to access for patients. In this paper, we examine the theoretical and empirical effects of one implementation of pharmaceutical price controls, in which the Indian government placed price ceilings on a set of essential medicines. We find that the legislation resulted in broadly declining prices amongst both directly impacted products and competing products. However, the legislation also led to decreased sales of price-controlled and closely related products, preventing trade that would have otherwise occurred. The sales of small, local generics manufacturers were most impacted by the legislation, seeing a 14.5 percent decrease in market share and a 5.3 percent decrease in sales. These products tend to be inexpensive, but we use novel data to show that they are also of lower average quality. We provide evidence that the legislation impacted consumer types differentially. The benefits of the legislation were largest for quality-sensitive consumers, while the downsides largely affected poor and rural consumers, two groups already suffering from low access to medicines.

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