The Health Ministry plans to include hygiene products such as adult diapers, sanitary napkins, soaps and floor disinfectants under the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM). However, this will not automatically lead to their price control, it has clarified.

The current NLEM, drawn in 2015, has 376 drugs listed under it. Hygiene products are being considered for inclusion as the list is being expanded. This means public hospitals will be required to stock them.

However, their inclusion in NLEM will not automatically lead to the products’ price control. In fact, at the first stakeholders’ consultation meeting held in July, a member of the Standing National Committee on Medicine (SNCM), which is drawing up the new NLEM, said there is a proposal to delink the list from the purview of price control. Explaining the rationale behind this, the member said: “If a product is under NLEM, but its price control is economically unviable, the purpose is defeated because availability will become an issue. If it is an essential medicine but not included under NLEM, price won’t be controlled and affordability will be affected. If the medicine is not essential and included in NLEM, limited resources are strained. So the list has to be relooked.”

A civil society member who was also present said: “One of the purposes of NLEM is cost-effectiveness. However, delinking of price regulation will give a broader mandate to SNCM to possibly include more expensive drugs which are absolutely necessary for the population in NLEM, and pricing can be dealt with separately by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority.”