Drug pricing regulator National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has slashed prices of 54 essential medicines by up to 55%, including commonly used drugs for cancer (brain and breast), hypertension, diabetes, antibiotics and other heart disorders. The move is aimed at bringing down prices of commonly used drugs for critical diseases by expanding span of price regulation to cover new drugs, NPPA Chairman Bhupinder Singh told. In a notification issued on Tuesday, the regulator ordered manufacturers, distributors and retailers to implement the ceiling prices with immediate effect. The 54 drugs are part of the revised National List of Essential Medicines, 2015. The heath ministry had come out with the new list in December increasing the span of price control from 684 to 875 medicines. The NPPA has so far capped prices of 280 new drugs which are part of the revised list. This is the second price revision in the last 15 days. On April 28, the regulator had fixed prices of another 54 drugs.
The idea is to make treatment of critical diseases more affordable by bringing down the cost of medicines, which constitute a major part of the total health expenditure, mainly in case of tertiary care.
In rural India, almost 80% of the out-of-pocket expenditure is on medicines, whereas in urban areas it is around 75%. New medicines have been brought under price control through the latest NPPA order. The new drugs include Trastuzumab injection used in treatment of breast cancer, Temozolomide for brain cancer, various medicines for heart disorders as well as hypertension like Amlodopine, Ramipril, Clopidogrel etc. According to the regulator, prices of these medicines have been fixed on priority because these are commonly used and are new to the list.
Incidence of cancer and heart diseases are increasing rapidly in India to the extent that the two have emerged as top causes for mortality in the country. According to the latest data issued by the National Cancer Registry Programme of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), cancer has become the biggest cause of death in India with 1,300 deaths daily and close to 5 lakh every year. According to latest global studies, deaths from cancer have risen by 60% since 1990. Cardiovascular diseases are also found to be the leading cause of death globally.
Apart from price regulation, the government has of late also explored other ways to bring down prices of such medicines. For instance, the health ministry has started AMRIT (Affordable Medicines and Reliable Implants for Treatment) programme to provide cancer drugs to patients at a heavily discounted price.
Similarly the department of pharmaceuticals started Jan Aushadhi stores to sell these medicines at a cheaper prices.