After stents and knee implants, the government is all set to regulate prices of intraocular lens, hearing aids and dialysis fluid used in the treatment of kidney-related ailments. A newly-constituted committee on the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) has identified these products for price control, two people aware of the matter said.

The committee headed by Balram Bhargava, secretary, department of health research and director general of the Indian Council of Medical research (ICMR), met stakeholders and experts on the subject on Tuesday and shortlisted these three medical products that should be available in adequate numbers and assured quality, said one of the two people cited earlier.

The NLEM committee identifies essential medicines and sends the list to a second committee comprising Rajiv Kumar, vice chairman, NITI Aayog; Preeti Sudan, secretary, health ministry; and P.D. Vaghela, secretary, department of pharmaceuticals, for deciding which ones are to be brought under price control.

“It has been seen that intraocular lenses and hearing aids manufacturers, distributors, and hospitals are allegedly pocketing profits ranging from 59% to 1,500% on the manufacturing cost. The prices hence have to be cut. After meeting the stakeholders, these three were identified and will be sent to the other committee for bringing them under price control," the second person said, requesting anonymity.

This is also a departure from the existing mechanism in which all essential medicines were brought under price control. Under the previous mechanism, the health ministry prepared a list of drugs eligible for price regulation, following which the department of pharmaceuticals, which comes under the ministry of chemicals and fertilizers, incorporated them into Schedule 1 of the drug price control order. Following this, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) fixed the prices of drugs in this schedule. “The list, once adopted by the government, would become part of the drug price control order, and hence, the price is regulated," said the second official.

Medicines and devices listed in NLEM must be sold at the price fixed by the NPPA, while those in the non-scheduled list are allowed a maximum annual price hike of 10%.

The committee has also been working to bring cancer drugs, cardiology drugs and penicillin preparations under price control. The NLEM list is reviewed every three years to include or exclude drugs. Changes to the list, according to industry experts, are expected to be made on the lines of the World Health Organization’s essential medicines list published earlier this month.

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