India’s ambitious plan to provide free medicines to all will be launched from October, says a government report. Strongly backed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself, the free-medicines-for-all scheme has received its first financial allocation of Rs.100 crore from the Planning Commission for 2012-13. The entire programme is estimated to cost Rs.28,560 crore over the 12th Five Year Plan.
Report of a working group on drugs and food regulation in the 12th Plan said the plan will be operational from October this year. An announcement on the prime minister’s official Facebook page Saturday said the Prime Minister’s Office has asked the health ministry to set up a central procurement agency (CPA) for bulk procurement of drugs as early as possible.
At present, 78 percent of the entire health expenditure in India is from out of pocket (OOP). Purchasing drugs alone accounts for 72 percent of this expenditure. Public sector provides healthcare to only 22 percent of the country’s population.
According to health ministry’s estimates, this will increase to 52 percent by 2017 once medicines are provided for free from 1.6 lakh sub-centres, 23,000 primary health centres, 5,000 community health centres and 640 district hospitals.
A list of medicines has been prepared by the central government, which has 348 drugs including anti-AIDS, anti-psychotic, sedatives, anaesthetic agents, lipid lowering agents, steroids and anti-platelet drugs. States have also been asked to create their own lists, keeping in mind the diseases that worst affect their populations. The central government will bear 75 percent of the expenditure under the plan.