India Free Drugs Policy Blow To 'Big Pharma'
The Indian government is finalising a plan to give out billions of pounds worth of essential medicines to patients in government-run hospitals and clinics - the biggest scheme of its kind in history.
The landmark project would be another massive blow to Western pharmaceutical giants who are already struggling to find a foothold in the world's second most populous country.
The West's big pharmaceutical firms - or "big pharma" - have long been thwarted on the sub-continent where the authorities freely allow generic drug companies to manufacture cheap copies of patented medicines.
Doctors will be ordered to only use generic drugs in the programme, which is expected to be approved in the next couple of months.
If a doctor prescribes a branded medicine they will face a hefty fine.
Analysts believe the policy will cause the big pharmaceutical companies to rethink their emerging markets strategy.
At the moment companies, like Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline, spend a fortune on research only to see their precious formulations copied by generic drug companies in India.
Healthcare specialists have welcomed the policy though and claim it may be a large first step towards universal healthcare.
India's rapidly growing population currently stands at 1.2 billion people, just behind China.
At the moment people can receive free healthcare at government-run hospitals but the cost of medicines for the poor mean many cannot follow the treatment programmes prescribed.
The free drug proposal aims to reverse that but there are concerns about how effective the policy will be in a country where there is widespread corruption and inefficiency.
Medecins Sans Frontieres' head of mission in India, Pierangelo Gandini, said: "In principle we think the plan is a great idea.
'But the implementation may be a problem because much more work needs to be done as some of the health services in the country, particularly in rural areas where the need is greatest, still do not work to a basic standard."
He added: "We are concerned about whether the plan will be implemented properly."
Officials at the health ministry say more than £2bn will be spent on 350 essential generic treatments over the next five years.
It is expected up to half the population will benefit from the new policy.
what do you think?
widespread corruption and inefficiency. Are we talking about India or the UK?
Only £2bn, that`s OK. We`ll be able to manage that.
Well, as the country has a massive armaments programme, a space programme and is now a donor nation, it is about time it thought about its own people rather than depending on Western charity.
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This countries are held back by corruption and its more prevalent in the working classes,like officials etc.The root cause of corruption is insecurity and not knowing where the next meal is coming from.Introducing a welfare system and clamping down harsely on corruption is the answer.
God Bless you India.A free health service for all .American`s take note with your dirty Right -wing Republican`s going all out to wreck Obama`s Healthcare.SHAME ON YOU.
He speaks the truth. America, the land of the free. Well only if you have adequate health insurance, that is.
Good for them. My Clopidogrel comes from India and it costs the NHS a fraction of what the American producers of the "branded" drug charge. Drug companies may spend a lot developing drugs but they sure as hell make big profits from those least able to refuse them too. There's also the question of "unprofitable" diseases not getting the research they need because there's not enough money to be made from the drugs needed, so maybe India's the answer there too.