Free medicines for all at public health facilities soon

New Delhi: With finalisation of 12th Plan outlay, Health Ministry is aiming to roll out its ambitious project for provision of free medicines to all at public health facilities across the country from November 1.

Despite a scaled-down outlay of 1.95 per cent of GDP during the 12th Plan, Health Ministry officials say none of its planned schemes will be sacrificed and it is keen to launch the free medicines project soon.

"We should be able to work out all our schemes within the budget earmarked for the 12th Plan. No scheme will be sacrificed," a top Health Ministry official told PTI.

He said, "We are keen to launch the free medicine scheme within the next two months. The effort is to launch it from November 1 and the model of Rajasthan Medical Services Corporation and that of Tamil Nadu, which has been a pioneer in this, are being studied."

Once the scheme is launched, the government will provide free generic medicines to all patients coming to public health facilities - from primary and community health centres to district hospitals and medical colleges.

The Health Ministry intends to earmark an amount of Rs 2,000 crore annually under the proposed National Health Mission (NHM) for supplementing the states` resources under the scheme, which will see its scaling up to Rs 6,000 crore for augmenting the supply chain management of medicines.

While the Centre will supplement the states` efforts, the Health Ministry is mandating that besides creating a list of generic medicines, states should prepare standard treatment guidelines and evolve a system of procurement.

The Ministry has favoured that medicines be procured centrally and their stocks be maintained which will help in drastic reduction in the cost of such medicines. Officials said by doing so, like in Rajasthan, there can be reduction in cost of medicines by up to 70 per cent.

For the success of the project, the Centre is also pressing for prescription of generic medicines and ensuring that their quality is maintained through proper testing of drugs, besides developing a grievance redressal mechanism.

Adequate supply of essential medicines at health centres has been an area of concern, with even the performance audit of National Rural Health Mission pointing to glaring deficiencies in the drug supply chain at health centres across India.

So much so so that the CAG found expired drugs being supplied to patients at some places, defeating the very purpose of the scheme.

During a performance audit of NRHM in 2008, the CAG had found essential medicines in short supply at a number of test -checked health centres.

The CAG also found that the NRHM provision of two month medicine stock at a health centre was not being adhered to in most places.

As many as 13 states including Assam, Delhi, Haryana, J&K, Punjab and Jharkhand had not cared to prepare the common formulary of essential drugs that should be available at a health centre, the CAG report said.

The free medicines scheme being evolved now will finally take the ministry towards universal health care for all. The scheme aims to help reassert the faith of the common man in public health facilities, which the Ministry intends to strengthen across the country during the 12th Plan.


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