ARVs added to India’s National Essential Medicines List
HIV drugs should now be more accessible in India, after the country’s National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) was expanded to include antiretrovirals (ARVs) and many other medicines.
The list, which now holds 376 medicines (an increase of 28) aims to:
- Guide safe and effective treatment of priority disease conditions of a population
- Promote the rational use of medicines
- Optimise the available health resources of a country.
Free antiretroviral treatment (ART) has been available in India since 2004. However, in 2013, only 36% of adults eligible for ART received treatment, alongside 30% of children (UNAIDS, 2014).
Although the recognition of HIV drugs as an ‘essential medicine’ has the potential to improve access for people living in India, the impact is yet unclear according to Ranjana Smetacek, Director General of the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) which represents drugmakers operating in India.
She says: "We will be seeking clarification and a better understanding of its implications."
India has the third largest HIV epidemic in the world. According to the United Nations, in 2013 there were 2.1 million people living with HIV in India and in the same year, an estimated 130,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses (UNAIDS, 2014).