NEW DELHI: Essential hygiene products such as sanitary napkins, hand wash, disinfectants and adult diapers may soon come under price control. The government is finalising a list of essential hygiene products, which is likely to form the basis for expansion of price control from medicines and medical devices to other important health products.

At present, there is only a National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM), which also includes some critical medical devices. While the government is revisiting NLEM to make relevant additions and omissions, it is also preparing separate lists for medical devices, disposables and hygiene products.

While a price-control regime for hygiene products is in the works, for medicines the government currently regulates prices of around 384 essential medicines, including medical devices such as stents, by imposing a cap on their maximum retail price. For all other drugs, companies are allowed to hike prices by up to 10% annually (on a 12-month moving average basis). Besides, the government has also imposed a cap of 30% on trade margins for 42 cancer drugs.

“The list of essential hygiene products is in its final stages and is likely to be released over the next two months,” an official involved with the process told TOI. The list will be divided into two categories — primary and secondary. While products in the primary category will be price-controlled, the government will ensure availability of even those categorised as secondary at reasonable prices.

Once the list is notified, a Niti Aayog committee will take a call on whether there will be an overarching ceiling price or a cap on trade margins. An official indicated it could be a mix of the two — while there can be a price cap for items on the primary list, trade margin limits may be prescribed for those on the secondary list.

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According to the official, many of these products are commonly used and contribute substantially to household expenditure on health. Though these products are not categorised as pharmaceuticals, they are healthcare products that play a significant role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and are often also used in various medical purposes.

However, many of these products, including sanitary napkins, sanitisers and diapers, are exorbitantly priced with soaring trade margins.

The practice of using pieces of cloth and rags is still highly common among rural and urban poor. Apart from inadequate awareness, absence of low-cost sanitary napkins is another problem.

“The idea is to ensure that all these products are available and affordable to the common people as they play a crucial role in disease control and maintaining health and hygiene. Some of these products will be available for free at primary and community health centres,” the official said.

The list is being drafted by a sub-committee formed under the standing national committee on medicine and health under the secretary, department of health research, and Indian Council of Medical Research director general Balram Bhargava.

The standing committee on affordable medicine, under the chairmanship of Niti Aayog member V K Paul, will take a final call on price rationalisation of any medicine and healthcare product. However, the list of essential products will form the basis of price rationalisation by this committee.





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