New Delhi: The government has shortlisted commonly used hygiene products like soaps, adult diapers, sanitary napkins, hospital hand gloves, floor disinfectant, operation theater gum boots—that it says should be of assured quality and available within the health system in adequate numbers.

The committee on National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) had in September last year formed sub-committees to categorize medicines, medical devices, disposables, and health and hygiene products according to how essential they are for healthcare.

The NLEM committee, which is in the process of identifying essential medicines, consumables, hygiene products, will send 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.

According to two people aware of the matter, experts are debating on various aspects of hygiene products that should be available within the healthcare system at all times. “There are discussions going on as to what kind of soap be put under the hygiene category, whether it should be liquid, medicated. Microbiologists have also been roped in for it. What type of gloves-simple, powdered, lubricated etc be included in the list, said one of the persons, requesting anonymity.

According to the second person the committee is deliberating on the list of hygiene products and likely to come out with a final one by next month. “Products like sanitary napkins, adult diapers have been included in the list too."

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 person.

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 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 this year.

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