The list prepared by the health ministry, after a gap of eight years, has 348 medicines, including 43 new drugs.
The maximum number of new drugs, that was included in the NLEM 2011 list, meant for the treatment of cancer, was eight. The expert panel that finalised the list had taken out 47 drugs from the NLEM 2003 list.
According to a senior official in the chemicals and fertilisers ministry, once the draft policy is reviewed to incorporate NLEM drugs, the ministry will request the Group of Ministers (GoM) looking into the draft pharma policy to convene a meeting. The GoM was formed after a Supreme Court directive insisted that all essential medicines should come under the purview of the government price regulation.
The ministry had suggested a pharma policy that talks about including all NLEM drugs under price control.
The new additions in the NLEM list belong to: Anesthesia (3), pain killers (4), anti-allergic (1), antidote (1), antiepileptic (1), anti-infective (4), anti-retroviral (4), cardiovascular (3), derma (1), gastrointestinal (5), contraceptive (2), muscle relaxant (1), ophthalmology (3) and psychotherapeutic (3), among others.
The new list, finalised by an expert committee formed by the health ministry, categorises essential medicines under primary, secondary and tertiary segments. While NLEM 2003 had 354 drugs, the current list contains 348 drugs under 27 categories. While 31 drugs in the tertiary list of 61 are cancer drugs, 181 drugs are common in all three categories and 106 drugs are common in the secondary and tertiary list.
Since NLEM drugs are essential, they form part of the basic stock that should be made available in public health institutions.