The government is considering bringing cancer drugs under price control to provide relief to patients in the country, according to senior officials.
As per the officials, a move is already on to make cancer drugs a part of the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM), which would make it easier to bring them under the Schedule I of the Drug Price Control Order of 1995.
Schedule I drugs are under price control in the country at present. "Currently, we are collecting data from pharma companies on the market size of cancer drugs, cost of production, packaging and other expenses.
Only after analysing these data, we would start the process of bringing cancer drugs under price control," a senior government official, who did not wish to be identified told PTI. Another senior official said the Health Ministry has also mooted a proposal to amend the NLEM in order to accommodate cancer drugs in the list.
NLEM is a list of 354 drugs drawn up by the government in 2003 aimed at addressing the priority healthcare needs of the country. The Supreme Court had asked the government to put in place a policy that would bring medicines under the essential list under price control.
However, an attempt to bring the NLEM under price control through National Pharmaceutical Policy 2006 did not materialise due to the difference of opinion between the various ministries. At present, most of the cancer drugs sold in India are manufactured by multinationals such as Novartis, Roche and GSK. These can cost up to Rs 1.25 lakh for a month's treatment.
NGOs and other social organisations have been demanding for long that the government should act to bring down the prices of cancer drugs. It is estimated that there are nearly 1.5-2.0 million cancer cases at any given point of time in India and over 3 lakh die annually due to the dreaded disease.
Data from population-based registries under National Cancer Registry Programme indicate that oral and lungs cancer in males, and cervix and breast cancer in females account for over 50 per cent of all cancer-related deaths in the country.