Several cancer drugs, antibiotics to become more affordable

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NEW DELHI: Several cancer drugs, antibiotics and vaccines will now become more affordable as they are among 34 new additions to the national list of essential medicines, with the government saying this will reduce “out-of-pocket expenses for patients”.

Anti-infectives like ivermectin, mupirocin and meropenem were also added to the list, bringing the total number of drugs to 384.

Four main anticancer drugs – bendamustine hydrochloride, irinotecan HCI trihydrate, lenalidomide and leuprolide acetate which are effective in various types of cancers – and psychotherapeutic drugs – nicotine replacement therapy and buprenorphine – have been added to the list.

However, 26 drugs such as ranitidine, sucralfate, white petrolatum, atenolol and methyldopa were removed from the previous list. The deletion was made based on the parameters of cost-effectiveness and availability of better drugs.

After launching the list on Tuesday, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya tweeted: “National Essential Medicines List 2022 released. It includes 384 medicines in 27 categories. Many antibiotics, vaccines, cancer drugs and many other important drugs will become more affordable. & reduce out-of-pocket expenses for patients.”

Speaking on the occasion, he said his ministry was taking various steps as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision towards “Sabko Dawai, Sasti Dawai”.

“In this direction, the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) plays an important role in ensuring the accessibility of affordable quality medicines at all levels of health care. This will give a boost to cost-effective and quality medicines and will contribute to the reduction of out-of-pocket expenses on health care for citizens,” he said.

The main objective of NLEM is to promote the rational use of medicines by considering the three important aspects of cost, safety and efficacy, Mandaviya said.

He said the NLEM is a living document and is revised regularly in light of changing public health priorities as well as advances in pharmaceutical knowledge. The NLEM was formulated in 1996 and it was revised three times earlier in 2003, 2011 and 2015.

The revision of NLEM 2022 was done after constant consultation with stakeholders ranging from academia, industry and public policy experts, etc., and crucial documents like the WHO EML 2021.

In the revised list, the endocrine drugs and contraceptives Fludrocortisone, Ormeloxifene, Insulin Glargine and Teneliglitin have been added.

Montelukast, which acts on the airways, and the eye medication Latanoprost are also on the list.

In addition, the cardiovascular drugs Dabigatran and Tenecteplase also find their place in the list alongside drugs used in palliative care.

“Anti-infectives such as ivermectin, meropenem, cefuroxime, amikacin, bedaquiline, delamanid, itraconazole ABC Dolutegravir have been added to the NLM,” said Dr. YK Gupta, vice- Chairman of the National Standing Committee on Medicines.

NLEM drugs are included in the planned category and their price is regulated by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, Dr Gupta said.

A revised list of 399 formulations was submitted by an expert committee of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) last year. After a detailed analysis of Indian needs, major changes were sought by Mandaviya.

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