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Analysts in India call for urgent expansion of essential medicines list

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g2050 (Published 11 March 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2050
  1. Anita Jain
  1. 1New Delhi

Public health policy analysts have called for an urgent revision of the Drug (Prices Control) Order 2013 to expand the list of “essential” medicines, whose prices are fixed, beyond the current 348.1

An independent evaluation of the policy by the Public Health Foundation of India and the Institute for Studies in Industrial Development found that this price regulation was limited to 17% of the drugs prescribed in India.2 This left most of the market untouched and provided only marginal financial relief to patients, the authors said.

The report was released at a conference on pharmaceutical policies in India, held in New Delhi from 3 to 7 March. The authors recommended increasing the scope and coverage of the price control order, as well as abandoning the current market based formula for drug pricing in favour of a cost based formula.

The current policy restricts drug pricing control to formulations that are included in the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM).

Anurag Bhargava, of the Himalayan Institute of Medical Sciences, told the conference, “This is a matter of concern given that the NLEM was not drafted as an instrument for price regulation. It is a representative rather than a comprehensive list of medicines utilised in actual practice. To serve as a reference for rational prescribing, the NLEM includes only a …

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