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Updated: July 10, 2012 15:13 IST

Long faces in the health sector

Afshan Yasmeen
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CHEAPER MEDICINE: The idea is to make all medicines, including life-saving and essential drugs, available at highly subsidised costs for patients.Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
The Hindu
CHEAPER MEDICINE: The idea is to make all medicines, including life-saving and essential drugs, available at highly subsidised costs for patients.Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Medical Education Minister S.A. Ramdas has promised to start 20 more such units across the State.

Claiming to make healthcare affordable for the poor, the State government recently launched its first Janata Bazaar outlet in Victoria Hospital here to sell generic drugs at 80 per cent discount, and branded medicines at half their market price.

Medical Education Minister S.A. Ramdas has promised to start 20 more such units across the State. These Janata Bazaar outlets are being set up by his department in collaboration with the Karnataka State Cooperative Consumer Federation Ltd.

The idea is to make all medicines, including life-saving and essential drugs, available at highly subsidised costs for patients. The medicines will be procured directly from the manufacturers and the government has tied up with Cipla Ltd., Torrent Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and Intas Pharmaceutical Ltd. As the success of the project largely depends on doctors — they are the ones who prescribe medicines — Mr. Ramdas said a Government Order directing the doctors to compulsorily prescribe generic medicines will be issued soon.

This has not gone down well with the medicine dealers, chemists and doctors themselves. “How can we be assured of the efficacy of the generic drugs? Who will be responsible if something goes wrong as the generic drugs are directly supplied by the manufacturer to the dealers? I cannot go looking for the manufacturer if the drugs cause (adverse) reactions. Besides, who knows whether the manufacturer has got the quality of the drug assessed?” said Aravind Gubbi, Secretary of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA). PHANA president H. Paramesh said that generic drugs are good for the poor as long as the government takes the responsibility of assuring quality.

Criticism

Opposing the government’s project, B. Lokesh, working president of Karnataka Chemists and Distributors Association (KCDA), said that he believed the Minister had some business interests behind the initiative. “None of the 74 drugs under the Drug Prices Control Order (DPCO), which are essential life-saving drugs, are sold there (at the Janata Bazaar). These include combinations for diabetes and cardiac problems which have to be used regularly,” he said.

“The free drugs the government is providing to those below the poverty line in its hospitals are generic medicines procured through the Karnataka State Drugs and Logistics Society. When you have a system of dispensing free medicines to a section, you might as well supply free medicines to all. What is the need to start another store for that?” he asked.

He alleged that the Minister was trying to get such business contracts to his close associates. “Although not all will accept generic drugs, there is a threat to the livelihood of the nearly two lakh staff of the 40,000 pharmacies in the State,” Mr. Lokesh said.

Quality factor

Karnataka State Pharmacy Council president D.A. Gundu Rao said that generic drugs could be a boon to the common man only if their quality was on a par with branded drugs.

A senior consultant from Victoria Hospital said that branded drugs were better because they would have been developed after years of research. “Let the Government sell branded drugs at subsidised costs or provide it free to all,” he added.

Muralidhar Peshwa, president of Karnataka Medical and Sales Representatives Association, said that the Union Government should bring all the essential 348 drugs under the Drug Prices Control Order (DPCO) instead of the 74 in the list now. “If all essential drugs are covered under DPCO, healthcare will be affordable to all because of the price regulations,” he said.

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