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After recently prescribing the need for 'bitter medicine' to resuscitate the ailing economy, the Narendra Modi government is, seemingly, working on contours of a social welfare healthcare project to sweeten the deal for the citizenry. For starters, the health ministry's vision is to provide 50 essential generic medicines, free of cost, from "birth to death" to all Indians across the nation.
"Fifty basic essential drugs address 75% of the healthcare needs of the majority, and we plan to make these available free to everyone, from birth to death," Union health minister Harsh Vardhan told HT.
The programme will be rolled out in phases, beginning with select hospitals across India, with the objective of reaching every citizen.
Once the rollout is complete, everyone will get these 50 medicines – that include traditional treatments for pain, infection, hypertension, diabetes, among others – complimentary on prescription at public hospitals and dispensaries.
"A standard list of medicines will ensure that for the same amount of money, 35% more medicines of superior quality can be procured to meet the healthcare needs of the majority," said Dr Vardhan.
"The programme will focus on efficient procurement, quality control and rational use – 50% medicines are wasted or overused, leading to complications and drug- resistance," the minister added.
Notably, as the Capital's health minister between 1993 and 98, Dr Vardhan implemented the 'Delhi model' of World Health Organization's "Essential Drug Programme" that drew up an essential drugs list with relevance to India's healthcare needs.
"Today, the out-of-pocket expenditure on health is 60% mainly because of two factors, medicines and diagnostics. Providing free medicines coupled with their rational prescription and use will lower cost to patients tremendously," said Ranjit Roy Chaudhury, national professor of pharmacology and chair of the committee for preparing the city's essential medicines list.
The Delhi model has been duplicated in 12 states in India and is promoted as a case study for developing nations by WHO.