The price of a slew of essential and life-saving medicines could rise by more than 12% from April 1, BloombergQuint reported on Tuesday.

The prices of essential drugs are regulated by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, which annually announces the change in the upper cap of drug rates on the basis of wholesale inflation during the year.

In a notification issued on March 25, the agency said that the annual change in the wholesale price index was 12.12%, reported The Hindu.

Over 384 essential drugs, including antibiotics, painkillers and those used to treat cardiac ailments could get pricier from April 1 in the highest-ever hike that has been allowed, according to BloombergQuint. However, medicine companies could choose not to increase prices of their products till the upper limit.

“Previously when a 10% hike was allowed, several manufacturers kept the rate under 5% because of market forces,” an unidentified health ministry official told The Hindu. “We are expecting a similar trend with this hike as well.”

Last year, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority had allowed a 10.7% hike in the prices of essential drugs. This was a sharp rise in the ceiling as prices were allowed to be raised only in the range of 0.5% to 4.2% between financial years 2018 and 2022, according to BloombergQuint.

Malini Aisola, the co-convener of the All India Drug Action Network, told The Hindu that the government should intervene against drastic rate hikes. Aisola’s organisation works towards promoting affordable healthcare.

“Such high back-to-back price increases are undermining the purpose of price fixation of essential medicines,” she said.