NEW DELHI: The prices of some antibiotics and drugs used to treat cancer and cardiac diseases are likely to be cut as the government inches closer to updating the list of essential medicines and bring some of them under price control.
In a departure from the usual practice, not all essential drugs will find their prices capped. The Standing National Committee on Medicines, which has been tasked with preparing the shortlist, will meet stakeholders on November 4 to consider their views before the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) 2019 is updated and finalised.
The committee headed by Balram Bhargava, secretary in the department of health research and director-general of the Indian Council of Medical Research, will decide which medicines should be available in adequate numbers and assured quality.
“This meeting will look into shortlisting drugs on oncology and cardiovascular diseases as lots of drug development has happened in these categories. Also, antimicrobial resistance is a priority area for the experts. Those drugs which have become resistant to Indian population will be deleted from the NLEM and new ones will be added,” a senior government official said.
This list will then be sent to a second committee, comprising Rajiv Kumar, vice-chairman of NITI Aayog, Preeti Sudan, secretary in the health ministry, and PD Vaghela, secretary in the department of pharmaceuticals, which will decide which drugs are to be under price control.
This is a departure from the existing mechanism in which all essential medicines automatically go under price control.
Under the earlier mechanism, the health ministry prepared a list of drugs eligible for price regulation, following which the department of pharmaceuticals under the ministry of chemicals and fertilisers incorporated them into Schedule 1of the Drug Price Control Order. The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority then fixed the prices of drugs.
Medicines and devices listed in the NLEM must be sold at prices set by the NPPA, while those in the non-scheduled list are allowed a maximum annual price increase of 10%.
The first stakeholder meeting on NLEM was held in July and included representatives from drug makers, pharma lobby groups and non-profit organisations. The experts were asked for their feedback on cancer drugs, cardiology drugs, penicillin preparations, information on anti-microbial resistance and a review of NLEM 2015.