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Times of India
18 November 2010
By Umesh Isalkar
Pune, India

Centre To Open Jan Aushadhi Outlets At Dist Hospitals
Now, Get Medicines At Cheaper Rates
Quality generic drugs will soon be made available to the public at affordable prices with the Union government’s move to open Jan Aushadhi Outlets (peoples’ drug store) in every district hospital of the country. This will check soaring prices of branded drugs and bring generic medicines within the reach of the common people, said experts.

"This is an important step as medicines account for 70 per cent of the out–of–pocket expenditure. Even if patients are able to receive a free check–up at a government clinic, they are often forced to pay out–of–pocket for the medicines, said Anant Phadke, co–convenor, state chapter of Jan Swasthya Abhiyaan, a coalition of NGOs working in the field health and right to healthcare.

"But it all depends on how the scheme is implemented. The scheme has been properly implemented in Rajasthan. The Maharashtra government needs to take proactive steps to implement the scheme effectively," Phadke said.

Jan Aushadhi Outlets will provide generic drugs to poor patients at around half the price of branded drugs. But opening of the outlets depends on state governments’ co–operation in allotting space in government hospitals, Phadke added.

Healthcare expenditure is the second–largest cause of rural indebtedness in India. As of 2008, 72 per cent of total healthcare expenditure was privately funded, 89.5 per cent of which was paid out of pocket by patients. During 1999–2000, 32.5 million patients fell below the poverty line after just a single hospitalisation.

As much as 40 per cent of those hospitalised were forced to borrow money or sell assets to meet cost, and 23 per cent of ill patients never sought treatment because of their inability to pay. The WHO estimates that 65 per cent of India’s population lacks regular access to essential medicines, states the fact sheet paper of the Jan Swasthya Abhiyaan, ‘Medicine Pricing and Universal Access to Treatment.’

"There is no scientific reason that doctors should prefer an expensive brandname medicine to cheaper versions, as both act exactly in the same way in the human body. However, because the factors behind pricing are complex and poorly understood, doctors tend to equate high price with higher quality, and prescribe the costlier versions. Doctors are also subject to advertising pressure from companies that produce the expensive versions, which influences their prescriptions.

If a patient wants to save money, they should ask their doctor to prescribe the least expensive version of the needed medicine," said Abhay Shukla, national joint convenor of Jan Swasthya Abhiyaan. Except individuals and commercial organisations, NGOs/hosp it als / charitable / co – operative/government bodies, which have minimum three years experience with good track record are eligible for running the Jan Aushadhi outlets.

Recommendation in favour of the applicant organisations from the respective health department of the state governments is required. Besides this, the state and central governments are also eligible to identify agencies to manage the stores.

Staggering Healthcare
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