In mid-December, a government department told the Kerala High Court that Ribociclib, a drug prescribed for a type of breast cancer, did not meet the conditions necessary to issue a compulsory licence. The drug is patented and therefore cannot be made by generic manufacturers but a compulsory licence, if issued by the government would permit a drug to be manufactured and made available at an affordable price. The case involved a woman, now deceased who said that she and her husband had a joint income of ₹74,400 a month, while the drug Ribociclib cost her ₹58,140, making it unaffordable. A study by the Indian Council of Medical Research has found that breast cancer is one of the top cancers in women in India.
Drug prices have evoked national interest following the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw widespread reporting of desperate patients turning to the black market for drugs and devices.
In September, the Centre released the National List of Essential Medicines -- the list was released after a gap of seven years, and contains 384 drugs. Interestingly, it also has added, for the first time four drugs that are under patents.
So what's in and out of the latest list? How are drug prices regulated in India, and how will the inclusion of drugs on the list help? Does India need to do more to make medicines affordable and accessible?