A quick Q&A with S Srinivasan, Jt Convener All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN)
Does the expanded list of drugs include all the essential drugs?
How many more need to be added to make it optimum?
About 900 but certainly a minimum of 500.
Are there categories of drugs that are critical to our needs, but are still out of the essential drug list?
Most categories are covered but not their therapeutic equivalents. E.g. Enalapril is in, but not Ramipril.
Is there a mechanism to constantly update the essential drug list?
Not as far as we know, but they have promised to revise it every two years.
The drug scene is dynamic - new molecules are constantly invented and many drugs are going out of patent. How does one ensure that the NLEM is dynamic enough to benefit from such developments. The long gaps that the government takes to update the list seems to be out of sync with reality. How do we handle this?
They can appoint a committee of medical experts to take care of this.
A serious worry is creating formulations of NLEM with non-NLEM drugs. Is this worry real?
Yes very much. For example, losartan (NLEM) plus ramipril (not in NLEM) is out of price regulation.
What will be impact of the new policy on prices?
The cost of the highest priced brands will come down by 10-15 percent; but they are still will very high.
What else is required to make essential drugs available and affordable to majority of people?
Weed out all drugs and combinations not found in the standard textbooks of pharmacology.
Automatic compulsory licensing of essential medicines under patent. Have only brand names for innovator (patented medicines) like in the West and all the others should be de-branded and sold under generic names.
What are the challenges that you anticipate in near future?
Getting access for all the poor in the public health facilities throughout India and universal health care for all in India as it exists in UK, France and Canada.