Saturday, July 9, 2011

India gets new list of essential medicines

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: With drug resistance emerging as a major health challenge in the country, the Central government has come out with a "New List of Essential Medicines", fine-tuning the earlier list made eight years ago.
Since the NLEM-2003 was prepared the country has witnessed a spurt in the number of drug resistance cases and emergence of new pathogens and infections. Diseases that were not recorded in India earlier have created a medical scarce in the country in the last eight years. Novel human influenza, bird flu, drug resistant superbug bacteria, sars and chikungunya, besides more virulent forms of dengue and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis have been claiming thousands of lives.
"The appropriate use of medicines selected in the NLEM promotes rational use of medicines. Such rational use of medicines, especially antimicrobial drugs, reduces development of drug resistance. The list also serves as a reference for assessing the healthcare access of the populace. It also serves as a tool for public education and training of healthcare providers," says the new document on essential medicines.
The government has included as many as 348 medicines in the NLEM-2011, deleting 47 medicines from the NLEM-2003. It has added 43 medicines to the new list keeping in view the changed medical and health scenario in the country.
Besides helping in controlling the problem of drug resistance and emergence of superbugs, the NLEM-2011 guides the hospital drug policies, procurement and supply of medicines in public sector, medicine cost reimbursement and medicine donations. It helps in monitoring the pricing of medicines
The list serves as a reference document for correct dosage form and strength for prescribing. Since preference is given to single drug formulations as opposed to fixed dose combinations, the NLEM-2011 is expected to improve prescribing practices as well as the health outcomes. The Centre has added generic drugs carefully avoiding brands to make medicines affordable. India is one of the few countries where doctors prescribe drugs based on their brand value, rather than their medicinal value.
India prepared its first National List of Essential Medicines in 1996 almost two decades after the World Health Organisation came out with a list of its own in 1976. The list was revised in 2003 and the new list for 2011 addresses latest infections and pathogens.

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