June 30, 2010

Many Indians lack access to essential medicines: Report

India has the largest number of people (649 million) having no access to essential medicines, according to World Medicine Report (2004) of World Health Organization. The report also reveals that 77% of health expenses in rural areas and 70% in urban areas are on medicines alone. In a year, out-of-pocket medical costs alone push 2.2% of population below the poverty line, the report suggests.

According to S Srinivasan of Vadodara (Gujarat), who has been involved in issues related to medicine for over three decades and who has established LOCOST that manufactures essential drugs, the proportion of private expenditure on health in India is one of the highest in the world (84%) as compared to just 16% public expenditure. The total expenditure on medicines is in excess of Rs 30,000 crore, meaning Rs 1,500 for each family in the country, he said.

The UNDP Task Force on access to essential medicines report says that about 65% of Indians lack access to essential medicines. But 50-60% of the people are not able to get all the medicines, he explained. A World Bank document, using National Sample Survey data, concludes that more than 40% of those hospitalized in India borrow money or sell assets to meet the expenses.

Srinivasan will share his work on issues related to drug pricing and will deliver a talk on `Medicine prices: Why so high?' at a programme organized by Dharwad-based Drug Action Forum at Karnataka Vidyavardhaka Sangha at 5.30 pm on Friday.

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