The health policy framed for implementation in the 12th Five Year Plan with focus on privatisation and commercialisation will lead to unbridled price rise of essential medicines, Dr K.G. Radhakrishnan, member, state committee, Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP) has said.

Presenting the paper at a seminar on ‘Drug Laws and Price Rise,' held at the Vaypara Bhavan Hall here on Saturday, Dr Radhakrishnan said that the Union government appointed an expert committee and a steering committee by the Planning Commission for framing the health policy, but there were contradictions in the reports and policy being implemented now is without having a national debate. He said that the cost-based health care system approved by developed nations should be the guiding factor for the country too. The universal health care system will lead multinationals to decide the prices of the drugs and the price-control mechanism will disappear.

He said that the targeted public spending on health is 1.2 percent of the GDP, which was abysmally low as 0.98 percent, even when the World health Organisation recommended for five percent of the GDP. The universal health care will lead to ‘managed health care,’ by the multinational drug companies destroying the public health acre networks, he said.

The health policy is the follow up of privatisation of the health care sector which began in 1991 as part of the neo-liberal policy. To privatise the health care sector, the government adopted a three-pronged strategy - Government hospitals services should be levied with the aim of internal privatisation, help the corporates to run the medical education system and slowly reduce government spending on the health sector.

He said that in the health sector, consumer is not the decision maker and the medical practitioners take the decision for him. It leads to collusion by the health practitioners and the drugs companies where the consumer has no choice but to subscribe to the decision taken by the former.

Many companies are conducting medical trials on patients without their consent or knowledge and they consider these trials in the country as a cost-effective step, without concern for medical ethics. These trials are made in the name of providing free medicine by the hospital authorities, he said. They have no concern for the life of patients who are considered as a means to conduct such trials.

If a low cost medicine is available to be prescribed to a disease, why doctors prescribe the high cost medicine? he asked. It is only for the monitory benefit provided to him by the drug company that decides the price of its drug. He said that the patent to be provided for 20 years to a drug company will support the multinationals and help in monopolising the sector by them.

Dr Radhakrishnan said that nearly 50 Indian companies provide medicines for AIDS alone in the world drug market. They are charging very low prices only because of the price controlling mechanism prevailing in the country. By allowing universal health care system an entry, the prices of many life saving drugs will be beyond the reach of the common man, he said.

A public debate is needed to pressurise the government to protect the public health care sector and prevent unethical practices in the medical profession, he said.

Dr Suresh Varghese, presided over the function. A debate on the subject was also held in the afternoon.