Delhi’s AAP government expanded the essential drugs list (EDL) from 406 in 2013 to 1,390 in 2015, but almost all the drugs on the new list are not available to patients because the state’s drug procurement agency has still not procured them.
The Delhi Healthcare Corporation (DHC), which is responsible for procuring medicines, consumables and medical equipment, has not finalised tenders to buy these.
Stocks of existing drugs and consumables like bandages, cotton and gauze, are also falling short in hospitals as it was not procured over the past four months.
“The medicines were last procured in October 2016 under the terms of a tender floated by the Sheila Dikshit government in January 2015,” said a medicine supplier, who did not want to be named. After the Kejriwal-government announced the free medicine scheme on February 1, 2016, another tender was floated.
“These tenders, however, cannot be fulfilled as there are no competitive bids for close to 50% of the medicines. A part of the problem is that the new list of essential drugs has more than 1,300 medicines, many of which are not commonly used or purchased in bulk. It’s difficult to get competitive bids for drugs not used in bulk,” said another medicine supplier.
“Unlike previous EDLs, this one was not created by an expert team of pharmacologists and contains several cosmetic products like skin care creams,” he added.
“Some medicines have been added and some have been removed in the last two or three years, but apart from that, the list has remained more or less the same,” said a pharmacist working in a Delhi government hospital.
Doctors are now forced to prescribe only those medicines that are available in the hospitals, so that no patient goes home away without medicines. “But there have been periods of crisis in between, when even cotton was not available in the hospital,” the pharmacist said.
Hospital administrators have been using their emergency powers for “local purchasing” to keep the services running. “The hospital administration has the powers to procure medicines and consumables in small batches in emergency situations if the stocks are over, and it is taking time to get the items from the CPA. The hospitals are managing with these local purchases,” said an official from the health department of Delhi government.
“There were some bureaucratic hurdles earlier, but CM has instructed the chief secretary to resolve the problem immediately. There is no reason for shortage of medicines as these are readily available in the market. If proper procurement does not happen, the government will think of it as sabotage and will take actions accordingly,” said AAP spokesperson Nagendra Sharma.
“A new rate list, which includes around 600 drugs instead of the 400 before, might have been okayed recently. But, even if the orders for the medicines are placed today, companies need at least 45 to 60 days to fulfill the orders. As for the total 1,300 drugs, it will take time,” said the medicine vendor.