Saturday, 26 December 2015

Cancer, HIV drugs get cheaper

Govt Adds 36 Medicines To Essential List 

For bringing down prices of medicines for critical diseases like cancer, HIV and diabetes, the government has revised the national list of essential medicines (NLEM) to add 106 more drugs while 70 other drugs, which are not prescribed frequently or where better alternatives are now available in the market, have been taken off the list. This means, the total number of essential medicines, prices of which are capped by the central government, would increase from 348 to 384, including diagnostic agents and contraceptives. The move following recommendations from a core committee formed by the health ministry is expected to make many important drugs affordable or at least reduce their prices significantly to bring relief to patients.

Calling it the "best fit list", the core committee under the chairmanship of former Indian Council of Medical Research chief VM Katoch said emphasis was laid on the disease-burden and treatment guidelines as basis for selecting, and therefore, medicines which are "aligned with the current treatment guide lines" and those used for treatment of diseases that are "public health problems" have been added to the new list. The new list of essential medicines, which comes into effect immediately, will be revised every three years as per the committee's recommendations.

The committee also suggested that given the diversity in climate, food habits and culture in India, the government should also consider inclusion of medicines for priority healthcare conditions for different regions. For instance, kala azar is more prevalent in Bihar whereas Japanese encephalitis is more prevalent in Assam. However, the recommendations did not delve into details of how this has to be done.

The existing Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO), 2013 which guides prices of medicines in the country was implemented in May 2013 after the NLEM, 2011 was finalized following stringent Supreme Court directives asking government to make essential medicines affordable. However, immediately after its implementation, the drug price regulator National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority as well as health groups raised concerns about many important medicines remaining outside the purview of price control.

Taking cognizance of the matter, the health ministry had constituted the panel to evaluate NLEM periodically in order to keep prices under check.