Health Shocker: Govt buys medicines at up to one-20th of retail price | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Health Shocker: Govt buys medicines at up to one-20th of retail price

Difference of retail and government procurement price of essential medicines by up to 20 times has prompted the government to initiate a new policy to provide these drugs at an affordable price to citizens through health centers in the next five years.

delhi Updated: Dec 31, 2011 17:44 IST
Chetan Chauhan

Difference of retail and government procurement price of essential medicines by up to 20 times has prompted the government to initiate a new policy to provide these drugs at an affordable price to citizens through health centers in the next five years.

The market price of a strip of 10 tablets of Albendazole prescribed for worm infection was Rs 250 whereas the Tamil Nadu government procured the same generic medicine for Rs 11. Arteether, an injection for malaria, was available to the state government at one-tenth of the market price. The price of Ceftazidime, an antibiotic for infection, was one-eight.

Tamil Nadu is the only state in India which provides free medicine for all in public health facilities (PHF). The 450 medicines are procured by a specialized body Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation at almost one-tenth of the retail prices. “Even at a budget of Rs 29 per capita the Tamil Nadu is able to provide medicines to all indoor and outdoor patients in all public health facilities,” said a Planning Commission committee on providing cheaper drugs to citizens.

Repeated government surveys have found rising health care costs on account of medicines as the second most frequent reason for rural indebtedness. “Studies show that in India the cost of medicines is anything between 50 to 80 percent of the total cost of treatment,” the plan panel’s report said.

A World Health Organisation report said that 68 % of Indians do not have access to affordable healthcare and medicines because of the high cost.

Despite the low costs for government, most of the times these medicines are not available in PHFs and people have to buy them from chemists, where the medicines are very costly. The prices of even essential medicines are not controlled by the government.

Tamil Nadu, where PHFs cater to half of the population, has been able to bridge this price gap and its model has been adopted by Kerala. Bihar and Rajasthan are in the process of doing so, government officials said.

The committee believes that providing free medicines through public health facilities across India was possible and will cost Rs 28,674 crore in the next five years, which is just 0.25 % of the Gross Domestic Product. Of the total funds required, the Central Government should bear 85 % whereas the remaining should be provided by the state governments upfront.

The proposal, which has backing of the health ministry, says that the money to the state governments should be provided by the National Rural Health Mission and proposed National Urban Health Mission. To deliver the medicines, the government would set up a specialized agency for procurement of medicines."It will also curb the trade of fake medicines as drugs available through PHFs would come with quality," a senior government official said.