Contributed by Singh & Associates
Singh & Associates

The Central Government, with an aim to offer medicines/healthcare products at affordable prices to the public, has taken a number of measures ranging from making drugs available through Jan Aushadhi stores to enabling price control of essential medicines to promoting prescription of generic medicines by medical practitioners.

Further to this, the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP), on January 21, 2019, constituted a “Standing committee on affordable medicines and health products (SCAMHP)1” to ensure availability of healthcare products at affordable prices in the country. The said committee will function as a recommending body to the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) regarding prices of pharmaceuticals and other health products.

The seven-member committee housed and headed by Niti Aayog will meet periodically as needed. Apart from NITI Aayog, the committee comprises Chief Economic Adviser to Ministry of Finance, Secretary of Department of Health Research, Vice-Chairperson of NLEM, Joint Secretary at Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Director General of Health Services and an expert in Biomedical devices, Pharmaceuticals or Bio-technology.

Purpose of Standing Committee

As a recommending body to NPPA regarding prices of drugs and health products:

  • The expert committee will interact with various stakeholders including civil society, manufacturers’ associations and individual experts. The committee can co-opt experts from other government departments, ministries, organizations or pharma associations as and when required.
  • The committee can take a matter for examination, suo-moto or on the recommendations/request of DoP, NPPA and Department of Health & Family Welfare.

About NITI Aayog

The National Institution for Transforming India, also called NITI Aayog, was formed via a resolution of the Union Cabinet on January 01, 2015. NITI Aayog is the premier policy ‘Think Tank’ of the Government of India, providing both directional and policy inputs. While designing strategic and long term policies and programmes for the Government of India, NITI Aayog also provides relevant technical advice to the Centre and States.

About NPPA

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) is an independent body of experts in the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers. The functions of NPPA, inter-alia include fixation and revision of prices of scheduled formulations under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order (DPCO), as well as monitoring and enforcement of prices. NPPA also provides inputs to Government on pharmaceutical policies and issues related to affordability, availability and accessibility of medicines.

The National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) is adopted on the basis of essentiality and notified by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, and is incorporated in the First Schedule of DPCO, 2013 which constitutes the list of scheduled medicines for the purpose of price control2. At present, prices have been fixed by NPPA for 856 formulations, including 4 medical devices, which are covered under Schedule–I of the DPCO, 20133.

Conclusion

At present, NPPA functions independently on regulating prices of medicines and health products and monitoring therein. The new committee will not bring much changes, as it also works on the existing mechanism in which drugs declared in scheduled category automatically qualify for price control. The only change is that, the NITI Aayog committee will decide which drugs should be under price control, which eventually dilutes the power of NPPA as an independent authority.

Footnotes

1. http://pharmaceuticals.gov.in/sites/default/files/Constitution%20of%20Standing%20Committee%20on%20Affordable%20Medicines.pdf

2. http://164.100.47.193/lsscommittee/Chemicals%20&%20Fertilizers/16_Chemicals_And_Fertilizers_45.pdf

3. http://pib.nic.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1556407

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