Keep some essential drugs out of price control, says panel

Maitri Porecha New Delhi | Updated on July 25, 2019

More expensive drugs may be included in essential list

Some drugs could be kept out of the purview of National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM), the Standing National Committee on Medicine (SNCM) said at the first stakeholders national consultation meeting for revision of NLEM 2015 held on Thursday.

“We are considering recommending delinking of price control with inclusion of drugs in NLEM,” a member of SNCM told BusinessLine.

“Currently all NLEM drugs are regulated by National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) for price control,” said Rajiv Nath, Forum Co-ordinator, Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AiMED). There are 376 drugs under the current NLEM.

The rationale

The member explained the rationale of de-linking price control from NLEM by stating, “If an essential medicine is under NLEM, but its price control is economically unviable then the purpose is defeated because availability will become an issue. Also if it is an essential medicine but not included under NLEM, price won’t be controlled and affordability will be affected. And if the medicine is not essential and included in NLEM, then limited resources are strained. So the list will have to be relooked.”

A civil society member present at the meeting 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 population in NLEM, and pricing can be dealt with separately by NPPA at their level.”

The mandate of the Standing National Committee on Medicines (SNCM) is not only limited to medicines, but also medical devices, medical disposables and consummables, hygiene and other healthcare products. Four sub-committees have been formed including one on Anti-microbial resistance (AMR) related drugs and one on Immunotherapy drugs, which is a new class of drugs for cancer.

SNCM has been seeking inputs from industry and civil society on previous NLEM list, oncology drugs, cardiology drugs and addition of penicillin preparations in NLEM.

“AiMED has submitted to SNCM to also include all kinds of syringes and needles in NLEM too,” said Nath.

“It is set to meet once in six months to dynamically revise the list according to the priority health care needs of the population,” the member said. “Medicines will be selected with due regard to disease prevalence, evidence of safety and efficacy and comparative cost-effectiveness. It is intended to be available all the times, in adequate amounts, in appropriate dosage forms, with assured quality and at a price the individual and community can afford.”

Published on July 25, 2019

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