ISLAMABAD: About 50 international and national health experts and representatives of federal and provincial governments attended a meeting held here on Wednesday to review the essential medicines list.

The meeting proposed that 10 medicines / salts, which cannot be sold in Pakistan, should be taken off the list and around 30 medicines / salts be added to it.

The World Health Organisation’s list of 374 essential medicines was taken as the model list.

After getting approval from the Pharmacy Services Division, over 390 medicines will be placed on the list and their availability will be ensured in the country.

An official privy to the meeting said that the list was initiated in the country in 1994 and was reviewed in 1995, 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2013.

“The WHO published a model list of Essential Medicines, 19th Edition, in April 2015 after amending its 2013 list. Therefore, the Pharmacy Services Division and the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan are now working on revision of the national essential medicines list, 2016,” he said.

Participants were divided into four groups and after consultations they recommended inclusion and exclusion of some salts. Some medicines of cancer, AIDS and hepatitis were recommended to be added to the national essential medicines list, he said.

“Moreover the essential medicines recommended by WHO and health department will also differ because the former focuses on patient safety but Pakistani health authorities focus more on cost-effectiveness. So we added the low-cost medicines / salts to our list,” he said.

In reply to a question, the official said that maximum molecules should be included in the list, otherwise smuggling of banned medicines and sale of unregistered medicines would increase.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan, Dr Mohammad Aslam, told Dawn that health experts and representatives of provincial governments also attended the meeting.

“We did not want to unnecessarily increase the number of medicines on the list because it becomes difficult to arrange all the medicines, but it seems that the list may reach near 400 because a number of new molecules have arrived in the market and they are required,” he said.

The recommendations will be finalised within a month and the final list will be circulated to the provinces. It will be ensured that public institutions will have all the medicines.

“After reviewing the national list a provincial list will also be prepared because requirements differ from province to province. Sometimes WHO also recommends cost-effective medicines as essential medicines,” he said.

“WHO prepares the list on the basis of the overall requirement of different countries and countries can make their own lists according to their own requirements,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2016

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