India Follows WHO’s Lead, Adds New AIDS, Cancer Medicines to List

The country’s essential medicine list has been updated for the third time ever since it was formed.

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New medicine for AIDS and cancer in Indian markets. (Photo: iStockphoto)

In its bid to bring down the cost of medicines for consumers, India has added new set of HIV/AIDS, cancer and Hepatitis C medicines to its list. The country has also updated its Essential Medicine List with the latest numbers available read at 376, while previously it was 348.

This is only the third time when the National List of Essential Medicines List (NLEM) has been updated since its inception in 1996. The updated list includes drugs ranging from analgesics, antivirals to contraceptives and anti-tuberculosis among others.

The NLEM 2015 has been prepared adhering to the basic principles of Efficacy, Safety, Cost-Effectiveness; consideration of diseases as public health problems in India, as per the NLEM report.
Report on Revision of NLEM November 2015

The new list takes cues from the World Health Organisation’s 2015 list of essential drugs, which the United Nations agency defines as those that satisfy the priority healthcare needs of people and ensure affordability.

The committee recommended that the list, which is effective immediately, be revised every three years. The pharma industry is yet to study the impact that the revision ELM could make in India.

We will be seeking clarification and a better understanding of its implications
Ranjana Smetacek, director general of the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI)

In hindsight, the industry is hopeful that medicines in the new list will be brought under price control, as was done with the previous list. Drug pricing is a contentious issue in India, where about 70 percent of people live on less than $2 a day and health insurance is inadequate.

India contributes roughly 1 percent of its total gross domestic product to healthcare, among the lowest levels of funding in the world. However, most industry executives have stated that drug prices in India are among the lowest in the world.

India’s drug pricing regulator has struggled in the past year to implement price caps and expand them to cover more drugs. When it fixed prices of about 100 medicines citing public interest last year, the industry fired back with lawsuits which prompted the govt to curb NPPA’s control over pricing the medicines.

(With inputs from Reuters.)

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