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Shortly after the Indian government hiked the price of petroleum, once the state assembly elections in early 2022 had concluded, it increased the prices of essential medicines as well. The National Pharmaceutical Authority (NPPA) is responsible for fixing the prices of these medicines. It announced in March 2022 that it could increase their prices by 10% from April 1. Its excuse: inflation.
Some 377 of these drugs fall under the ambit of the ‘National List of Essential Medicines’. They include common ones like paracetamol, painkillers, and antimalarial drugs, which exist in many forms. They can be taken orally, injected into the body, applied on the skin, etc. Together, there are 871 such formulations of these 377 drugs. These drugs have been further grouped into 30 categories.
The Union health ministry has a committee of experts to evaluate different drugs and decide whether they should be included in the list of essential medicines. The last time they updated the list was in 2015. The NPPA increased the prices of many of the drugs on this list – even though their prices are also capped, so that they remain accessible. According to the WHO, essential medicines must “satisfy the priority health care needs of a population”.
Banjot Kaur explains in the video report below: