As many as 34 new major drugs, including anti-cancer drugs, antibiotics, and vaccines, were included in the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) released by Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Tuesday.
With this, the number of essential drugs in India has reached 384, as per the Union health ministry. The medicines have been categorized into 27 therapeutic categories.
As many as 26 drugs, that were part of the list since 2015, have been dropped because of their cost-effectiveness and availability of better drugs.
Anti-infectives like Ivermectin, Mupirocin, and Meropenem, and psychotherapeutic medicines Buprenorphine and Nicotine Replacement Therapy have been added to the list.
Bendamustine Hydrochloride, Irinotecan HCI Trihydrate, Lenalidomide, and Leuprolide Acetate – the drugs used in the treatment of cancer – have also been included in it.
Mandaviya said that the Central government is committed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of ‘Sabko Dawai, Sasti Dawai’, adding that NLEM plays an important role in ensuring the accessibility of affordable quality medicines.
“This will give a boost to cost-effective, quality medicines and contribute towards a reduction in out-of-pocket expenditure on healthcare for the citizens,” he pointed out.
The drugs removed from the list include Ranitidine, Sucralfate, White Petrolatum, Atenolol and Methyldopa.
“The primary purpose of NLEM is to promote rational use of medicines considering the three important aspects i.e., cost, safety and efficacy. It also helps in optimum utilization of healthcare resources and budget; drug procurement policies, health insurance; improving prescribing habits; medical education and training for UG/PG; and drafting pharmaceutical policies,” the minister stated.
Originally introduced in 1996, the NLEM is a dynamic document and is revised on a regular basis considering the changing public health priorities as well as advancements in pharmaceutical knowledge. It was revised thrice – in 2003, 2011, and 2015.
As per the government, the list is based on the concept that a limited number of carefully selected medicines will improve the quality of healthcare, provide cost-effective health care and better management of medicines.
An independent committee is constituted to recommend necessary changes in the list after detailed consultation with experts and stakeholders.
The latest update was recommended by the Standing National Committee on Medicines (SNCM) which was constituted by the ministry in 2018.
The process of creation of NLEM depends on the feedback backed by scientific sources from stakeholders and the inclusion/exclusion principle followed, as per the government.