Emphasising on making cancer treatment affordable, a parliamentary panel on Monday suggested top government officials to consider waiving GST on cancer drugs and take stringent measures to check the prices of medicines and radiation therapy, sources said.
The panel also suggested that cancer should be a "notifiable disease" so that its "actual burden" on the country can be ascertained and steps taken to provide help to patients.
A notifiable disease is required by law to be reported to the government authorities. The collection of information allows the authorities to monitor the disease.
Pointing that cancer treatment is "very expensive" in the country, members of the panel told the health ministry officials that there is a dire need to check the overall pricing of cancer treatment, sources said.
Top officials of the ministry, including secretary Rajesh Bhushan, on Monday deposed before the Parliamentary Committee on Health and Family Welfare to discuss "affordability of cancer treatment".
Discussing the GST structure on drugs used for cancer treatment, members of the panel belonging to various parties, said the government should explore the possibility of waiving GST on such drugs to reduce their prices and make the treatment more affordable, sources said.
At the same time, the government should take some stringent measures to check the prices of medicines and radiation therapy used for cancer treatment, they said.
The officials informed the panel that drugs regulator National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority has so far fixed the ceiling prices of 86 formulations, rationalised trade margins of 49 drugs, and reduced the MRP (maximum retail price) of medicines used for cancer treatment up to 90 per cent.
The government also wants to roll out HPV vaccine across the country which is used for treatment of cervical cancer, they said, adding that regulatory approval has been given to it, but the matter is subjudice.
According to various health organisations, including the World Health Organization, cancer cases are gradually rising in India and it is one of the leading causes of death, with 7.84 lakh fatalities recorded in 2018, and 13.92 lakh cases reported in 2020.
Cancer treatment also involves post-treatment care and rehabilitation. At the national level, the average total cancer care expenditure was over Rs 1.16 lakh per patient, while in private hospitals, the total cost of cancer care was estimated to be over Rs 1.41 lakh and just above Rs 72,000 in government hospitals.
(With PTI inputs)