A study done by three experts from Public Health Foundation of India has estimated that about 55 million Indians are pushed into poverty in a single year because of spending on their own healthcare. It has also been evaluated that out of the total number, 38 million of them fall below the poverty line due to spending on medicines alone. According to the study published in the British Medical Journal, the largest amount of households spending on health are on non-communicable diseases like cancer, heart diseases and diabetes.
The study further concluded that out of the non-communicable diseases, cancer is one on which people are spending the highest portion of their household expenditure. It has been the most disastrous if health expenditure constitutes 10% or more of total household spending.
The government reduced the expenditure burden on medicines and healthcare since 2011-12. As per the Drugs Price Control Order 2013, all the essential drugs have been brought under the National List of Essential Medicines under price control. Still, the truth is that the list constituted just 20% of the total retail pharmacy market of India.
Further, the study revealed that even with the government’s several health insurance schemes, the major portion of the population is still spending a significant amount on medicines as hospitalization-based treatment. Though most insurance schemes cover the medicine expenditure still it constitutes only one third of India’s morbidity burden. The study also revealed that the frequency of outpatient visits was larger in number as comparative to the hospitalization, especially for those of chronic in nature and requires multiple consultations.
With the subsequent reduction in the availability of free drugs in the government health centers for outpatients as well as a decline in availability of drugs for inpatients, the patients are being encouraged to seek for public healthcare facilities.
The government fulfilled its target of opening 3,000 stores of Jan Aushadhi to provide affordable medicines still it failed to meet the demand due to frequent stockouts and quality issues. Instead of promises made to provide 600 plus medicines, most of Jan Aushadhi stores have barely 100-150 formulations. Moreover, the number of stores is too small as compared to the 5.5 lakh pharmacies PAN India.