New Delhi: Government think tank NITI Aayog has recommended a series of steps that could end up diluting the powers of India’s drug price watchdog, two people aware of the matter said.

Currently, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) functions as an autonomous body regulating prices of medicines under the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) and monitors prices of those that are not on the list.

One of the NITI Aayog’s key recommendations is to constitute two committees. One committee will have the NITI Aayog vice-chairman, and secretaries of health ministry and pharmaceuticals department as members. This committee will recommend affordable medicines and health products, and critically, assume NPPA’s powers under Para 19 of the Drug Price Control Order (DPCO) 2013.

NPPA currently exercises Para 19 powers in public interest. It can exercise these powers for setting the price cap of schedule and non-scheduled drugs. These are the same powers previously used by NPPA to cap prices of cardiac drugs, stents and knee impacts.

“The mandate of the committee on affordable medicines would also encompass powers under para 19 of the DPCO," said one of the persons cited above.

The second committee, with department of health research secretary and director general of the Indian Council of Medical research (ICMR), will decide on essential medicines.

At a meeting in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on 10 April, NITI Aayog also recommended giving powers to the government to review most clauses of the DPCO, which are issued by the chemicals and fertilizers ministry to declare certain medicines as essential and cap their prices.

NITI Aayog has also recommended renaming the NPPA as the National Pharmaceutical Authority, which will have four members.

The NITI Aayog has also recommended holding only those manufacturers liable to be fined for overcharging who do not have a documentary proof of communication.

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