The new Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan will soon call a meeting of state health ministers to discuss the issue of free generic drugs policy and to streamline the policy for its integration with National Health Mission (NHM).
The meeting will be held under the framework of the Central Council of Health (CCH). The CCH, which also includes professional experts, has not met for a number of years. “I am sure my colleague health ministers in the states are keen to ensure the success of this programme,” the new health minister said, who was reviewing the NHM with the ministry’s officials.
Dr Harsh Vardhan has asked for thorough streamlining of systems in the distribution of free generic drugs to government health institutions at all levels throughout the country. The free drug programme’s formal launch would be preceded by working out all logistical details with respect to procurement and distribution in consultation with the state governments.
The NHM’s two sub-mission — the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) will be vehicles for implementation of the programme. It was formally cleared by the union cabinet in May 2013. But till date its implementation has been limited to a few, big-city hospitals as the infrastructure for procurement and distribution was not put in place, the minister stated.
The Planning Commission had estimated that the free generic drug programme would cost Rs.28,560 crore during the 12th Plan period (2012-17) and had made its first financial allocation during 2012-13. While the Centre would bear 75 percent of the cost, the states are supposed to contribute 25 percent. Under the programme, 348 drugs under the National List of Essential Medicines are to be provided free from 1.6 lakh sub-centres, 23,000 primary health centres, 5,000 community health centres and 640 district hospitals by the end of the programme. The states have also been requested to add to the Essential List according to their local needs.