At least 50 cancer and orphan drugs which are used in the treatment of the rare diseases are set to become more affordable. This comes as a part of the central government's plans to set a cap of 25-30 per cent on the trade margins charged by the drug stockists and retailers.
These drugs were earlier not under the purview of price-control and were hence often overpriced.
This decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) last month in which the Director General Health Services (DGHS) had submitted a list containing 39 cancer drugs and other medicines that are used in the treatment of rare diseases.
"The PMO had earlier asked the DGHS to prepare a list of those anti-cancer drugs and other medicines that are currently not under the purview of the price-control (non-scheduled drugs), but need to be made cheaper," an official told the Times of India. The official added that the central government will invoke Para 19 of the Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO) to cap the trade margins of these medicines "under extraordinary circumstances" in the interest of the public.
"We have already submitted the list and the order from the central government is expected soon," the official said.
The move comes after the central government set up a committee under the NITI Ayog which will now recommend the prices of essential drugs and medical devices to the National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority (NPPA). The NPPA is an autonomous regulatory body which sets up the prices of the medicines and the medical devices.
The new drug-pricing mechanism has been devised after months of discussions under PMO that entailed the amendments to the current structure. This has resulted in limiting the role of the NPPA, which has not gone down well with the health advocacy groups.
However, the central government's move of bringing the non-scheduled anti-cancer drugs and orphan medicines under price control is aimed at putting brakes on the exorbitant pricing of these drugs.
The NITI Ayog had earlier suggested that those drugs which are not under the ambit of price-control need to be made cheaper by cutting down the trade margins on them.
This directive might also put an end to the apprehensions raised by the health advocacy groups on giving sweeping powers to the central government-appointed committee for having a say on the drug-price control which, according to them, is detrimental to the public access to medicines.