In good news for patients, the government for the first time is considering revising the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) based on therapies like oncology, anti-infectives, diabetes, cardiology, respiratory etc, in line with WHO’s recommendation to expand the purview of “essential medicines” that can be accessible and affordable to all. Besides, it is also looking to address the issue of anti-microbial resistance (AMR) through this exercise by adding and removing key antibiotics from the existing list, sources said.
The Standing National Committee on Medicines (SCAM), headed by the secretary department of health research and ICMR director general Balram Bhargava, held a stakeholders’ consultation on Monday to deliberate on the revision of the existing NLEM which is based on widely used formulations.
The key issues on the agenda included elimination of irrational antibiotics, inclusion of some key antibiotics which are part of the WHO list of essential medicines but are missing from the Indian NLEM, addressing scarcity of some first line antibiotics because of combination medicines and adopting WHO’s categorisation of drugs to counter AMR as well as evaluate its guidance in the Indian context.
Sources said the government plans to revise NLEM based on WHO’s recently revised list of essential medicines which added 12 ground-breaking medicines for five cancer therapies to treat melanoma, lung, blood and prostate cancers. It has also added new oral anticoagulants to prevent stroke. The development assumes significance as NLEM typically forms the basis of price caps extended on essential medicines. The recommendations from SCAM will also go to the standing committee on affordable medicines and health products (SCAMP), headed by NITI Aayogmember V K Paul.