Most of them are spending their out-of-pocket income: WHO

High spending on medicines and health will push many Indians below the poverty line, the World Health Organisation has cautioned.

“Due to the out-of-pocket spending of their income on medicines and health care services, about 3.2 per cent of India's population will come below the poverty line,” a senior WHO official said at a meeting organised by the Delhi Society for Promotion of Rational Use of Drugs (DSPRUD) and WHO on “Medication Safety in Hospitals” here recently.

WHO Regional Advisor Kathleen A. Holloway said most Indians were spending their out-of-pocket income up to an extent of 70 per cent on medicines and health care services in comparison to 30 per cent to 40 per cent ratio in other Asian countries like Sri Lanka. And still, she said, these Indians were suffering from the infected diseases in the absence of best quality of drugs and healthcare facilities.

Dr. Holloway further underlined the need for an effective monitoring system in India and expressed her concern at the lack of Drugs and Therapeutics Committee (DTC) and Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee (PTC) in Indian hospitals despite WHO's committed efforts over the last ten years in this direction. “These committees can play an effective role in India to provide the patients more efficient and rational use of medicines,” she said.

Medical Council of India secretary Sangeeta Sharma said the Council had been receiving complaints from many sections of society on the side effects of drugs prescribed by the doctors. “In view of lower awareness among the rural community about the Medical Council, majority of complaints are being received from cities only,” Dr. Sharma added.

Quality Council of India (QCI) secretary-general Girdhar Gyani said the QCI will shortly come up with three new standards for medication safety and ensure that patients in India get superior quality drugs.

DSPRUD president R. Parmeswar said that in the US alone, over 98,000 people have died in the past due to medication error cases and one can imagine the medication errors cases in India, where DTC/PTCs do not function well in comparison.