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Arun Sreenivasan, New Delhi January 23 , 2019
The Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) has constituted an expert panel to ensure availability of affordable medications in the market. The new standing committee on affordable medicines and health products (SCAMHP), headed by Niti Aayog Member (Health) Dr VK Paul, will be a recommending body to the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) regarding prices of pharmaceutical products.

Apart from chairman, the seven-member panel includes 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.

Housed at the NITI Aayog, the top-level committee would 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, which will be meting periodically, will be a recommending body to NPPA regarding prices of drugs and health products. The committee can take a matter for examination, suo-moto or on the recommendations/request of DoP, NPPA and Department of Health & Family Welfare.

It may be noted that the Central government has been adopting a slew of measures to make medicines affordable to the masses. The steps include making drugs available through Jan Aushadhi stores, enabling price control of essential medicines and promoting prescription of generic medicines by medical practitioners.

According to NPPA estimates, the initiatives have helped patients across the country save more than Rs. 15,000 crore. “The Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers has taken the step of fixation of ceiling prices and MRPs of essential and lifesaving drugs, as the case may be, by implementing the Drug Prices Control Order 2013. This step has resulted in patients saving over Rs. 5,000 crore since then, which is a big step in the direction of ensuring that no citizen suffers due to lack of affordable and good quality medicines in the country,” said Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers Mansukh L Mandaviya in a statement recently.

The minister has informed that these savings are in addition to approximately 10 lakh heart patients saving around Rs. 8,000 crore since fixation of ceiling prices of coronary stents in February 2017, including re-fixation in February 2018 and around 1.5 lakh knee patients saving about Rs. 2,000 crore since price fixation of knee implants in August 2017.

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