Karela Fry

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Free drugs

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From Nigeria’s Channels TV comes a report on India’s new drugs policy:

India has put in place a $5.4 billion policy to provide free medicine to its people, a decision that could change the lives of hundreds of millions, but a ban on branded drugs stands to cut Big Pharma out of the windfall.

From city hospitals to tiny rural clinics, India’s public doctors will soon be able to prescribe free generic drugs to all comers, vastly expanding access to medicine in a country where public spending on health was just $4.50 per person last year.

The plan was quietly adopted last year but not publicized. Initial funding has been allocated in recent weeks, officials said

Within five years, up to half of India’s 1.2 billion people are likely to take advantage of the scheme, the government says. Others are likely to continue visiting private hospitals and clinics, where the scheme will not operate.

“The policy of the government is to promote greater and rational use of generic medicines that are of standard quality,” said L.C. Goyal, additional secretary at India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and a key proponent of the policy.

About 600 billion rupees ($11 billion) in drugs are sold each year in India, or 482 billion at wholesale. Drugs covered under the new policy account for about 60 percent of existing sales, or 290 billion rupees at wholesale cost.

The government’s annual cost is likely to be lower due to bulk purchasing and because patients at private clinics would still pay for their own drugs. States will pay for 25 percent of the free drugs and the central government will cover the rest.

Under various existing programs, around 250 million people, or less than a quarter of India’s population, now receive free medicines, according to the health ministry.

India’s new policy, to be implemented by the end of 2012 and rolled out nationwide within two years, is expected to provide 52 percent of the population with free drugs by April 2017, at a cumulative cost of 300 billion rupees ($5.4 billion).

Public doctors will be able to spend 5 percent of the budget, equivalent to around $50 million a year, on drugs outside of the government’s list, on branded drugs or on medicines that are not on the list. Beyond that, they can be punished, said Goyal, the health ministry official.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

July 5, 2012 at 9:50 am

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