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Free-medicines-for-all programme to be launched from October

June 24, 2012

India’s ambitious plan to provide free medicines to all patients attending a government hospital across the country will be launched from October, according to a government report.

Manmohan Singh

Strongly backed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself, the free-medicines-for-all scheme has received its first financial allocation of Rs 100 crore from the Planning Commission for 2012-13. The entire programme is estimated to cost Rs 28,560 crore over the 12th Five Year Plan.

Report of a working group on drugs and food regulation in the 12th Plan said the plan would be operational from October this year.

An announcement on the prime minister’s official Facebook page on Saturday said the Prime Minister’s Office has asked the health ministry to set up a central procurement agency (CPA) for bulk procurement of drugs as early as possible.

At present, 78 per cent of the entire health expenditure in India is from out of pocket (OOP). Purchasing drugs alone accounts for 72 per cent of this expenditure.

Public sector provides healthcare to only 22 per cent of the country’s population.

According to the health ministry’s estimates, this will increase to 52 per cent by 2017 once medicines are provided for free from 1.6 lakh sub-centres, 23,000 primary health centres, 5,000 community health centres and 640 district hospitals.

A National List of Essential Medicines, 2011 has been prepared by the central government, which has 348 drugs including anti-AIDS, anti-psychotic, sedatives, anaesthetic agents, lipid lowering agents, steroids and anti-platelet drugs. States have also been asked to create their own Essential Drugs List (EDL), keeping in mind the diseases that worst affect their populations.

The central government will bear 75 per cent of the expenditure under the plan. [Source: IANS]

A Planning Commission panel had said drug prices have shot up by 40 per cent between 1996 and 2006. It said that during the same period the price of controlled drugs rose by 0.02 per cent, while those in the EDL increased by 15 per cent. The price of drugs that were neither under price control, nor under the EDL grew by 137 per cent.

The Commission says 39 million (3.9 crore) Indians are pushed to poverty because of ill health every year. Around 30 per cent in rural India didn’t go for any treatment for financial constraints in 2004. In urban areas, 20 per cent of ailments were untreated for financial problems the same year. About 47 per cent and 31 per cent of hospital admissions in rural and urban India, respectively, were financed by loans and sale of assets.

States have cut down on spending to purchase drugs, adding to common man’s woes. A study by the Public Health Foundation of India recently found that while India’s per capita OOP expenditure to pay for healthcare costs has gone up from Rs 41.83 in 2005 to Rs 68.63 in 2010, the per capita spending on drugs increased from 29.77 per cent to 46.86 per cent during the same period, while hospitalization costs went up from 11.20 per cent to 22.47 per cent.

Outpatient expenditure also increased from 30.63 per cent to 46.16 per cent. Catastrophic spending, or percentage of households spending more than 10 per cent of their overall income on healthcare, is nearly 15 per cent in states that have insurance in place as against 11 per cent in states that lack such policies.

Categories: Public Health
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