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Essential drugs list grows with 75 additions

New Delhi, July 11: The Union government today informed the Supreme Court that 75 new medicines have been added to the list of essential drugs after reviewing the Pharmaceutical Policy, 2002.

The decision to add more medicines to the list of essential drugs over which the state will retain control comes under pressure from the apex court, even though a new list of drugs that will come under the Drug Price Control Order (DPCO), hangs fire.

“At today’s hearing, the government has submitted a revised list of essential drugs, as promised by it, to the Supreme Court,” said Vinay Kohli, secretary in the department of chemicals and fertilisers.

Interestingly, Kohli clarified that there was no departure from the Pharmaceutical Policy, 2002 while drawing up the new DPCO list. The policy remains the same in terms of turnover of drugs and market monopoly, he said.

This implies that despite being termed “essential”, the state may still refuse to fix its price. The pharmaceutical policy, as it stands after various amendments, states only those drugs will come under price control whose turnover stands at least Rs 25 crore and market share at more than 50 per cent or those with turnover between Rs 10-25 crore but with a market share of 90 per cent.

The Karnataka High Court had asked the government not to go ahead with this amended drug policy, said Kohli, unless it ensured that life-saving drugs did not go out of the DPCO.

The whole issue came up before the courts following a public interest litigation (PIL) filed in the Karnataka High Court alleging that under the new pharmaceutical policy, life-saving drugs would go out of the DPCO, permitting pharmaceutical companies to raise prices at will, causing hardship to poor patients.

“The government will now go by the court orders,” said Kohli. This implies that the government will only fix prices for these ‘essential drugs’ if the court asks it to or else will simply label them essential and be done with it.

There are in all 279 essential drugs listed in the National Essential Drug list 1996. The amended pharmaceutical policy, which came into effect last year, says price regulation will be imposed on those drugs which satisfy the new turnover or market share criteria.

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