Free Essential Drug Scheme Proposed
BMI View: Implementation of the free essential drug scheme in India will benefit the population, as the private sector currently accounts for the majority of healthcare expenditure. However, extensive bureaucracy, exemplified by the requirement for support from individual states and union territories, will limit the scheme's roll-out.
According to India's Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, the newly elected Narendra Modi administration is keen to improve healthcare. As a result, the health ministry announced in June, its intention to provide 50 essential drugs free of charge to every citizen in India. Vardhan stated that these drugs will provide 75% of the population's healthcare needs. These 50 medicines include treatment for pain, infection, hypertension and diabetes. The programme will be rolled out in phases, and will focus on efficient procurement, quality control and rational drug use.
This is not the first time the idea of free, universal provision of drugs in India has been proposed. In June 2012, the former Indian Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad stated that the country's 12th five-year plan (2012-2017) will include a new initiative to supply essential drugs for free at public health facilities in order to provide affordable healthcare to all patients.  The INR286bn (USD5bn) free medicines programme was scheduled to start in October 2012. However, the programme was shelved in May 2013 due to financial constraints and the government's inability to implement a drug procurement policy. Instead, each state was told to formulate its own scheme for free drugs and seek funds under the National Health Mission.
|Private > Government|
|India Health Expenditure (INRbn)|