In a significant decision, the State Administrative Council which met here today under the Chairmanship of Governor Mr N N Vohra accorded sanction to the adoption of a Free Drugs Policy for Jammu and Kashmir.
The adoption of the Free Drugs Policy shall ensure availability of a number of medicines and drugs free of charge to the patients at different levels Health Centres. The State also itself commits to ensuring the availability of these drugs at the respective health institutions at all times.
This is part of the policy of the Government of India towards achieving the coveted goal of “Health for All”. It aims at reducing high Out of Pocket Expenditure on health care due to high cost of drugs which patients seeking treatment have to bear.
The State Government’s announcement of the Free Drugs Policy shall also enable it to stake claim for funds for provisioning of drugs/medicines under the National Health Mission (NHM).
J&K is one of the states which has already put in place a separate central procurement mechanism in the form of the J&K Medical Supplies Corporation Limited. The Corporation has started functioning fully since 2015 and the drugs/ medicines procured by this agency have already started becoming available. From the next the financial year 2016-17, it shall take over the burden of making all the procurements for Health and Medical Education Department’s procurement needs. In fact, this was one of the pre-requisites for rolling out of the Free Drugs Policy.
The Policy initially provides for making available for all ‘In patients’ and ‘Out patients’ 23 medicines at the level of sub-centres, 53 at the level of Primary Health Centres and 68 at the level of Sub-District Hospitals/CHCs/ District Hospitals. This free drug list has been envisaged as an evolving list, which is subject to review by the State Government depending upon the availability of resources and the felt needs of various Health Institutions.
Health Department had earlier put in place a Drug Policy in the year 2012 which was based on the National List of Essential Medicines of India, 2011.
Recently, the Department notified the Jammu and Kashmir Drug Formulary, which is an exhaustive list of drugs/ medicines out of which alone the procurement of drugs/medicines can be made by the J&K Medical Supplies Corporation etc. The State did not have a Drug Formulary till date and had to rely on the Formularies of other States for its procurement needs. This Formulary was notified based on the recommendations of a Committee constituted by the Government in 2013 under the Chairmanship of Dr Ajit K Nagpal, the first Director of Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, Soura and Convener, Task Force on Health Sector Reforms in J&K.
The Department undertook a detailed exercise while framing the Free Drug Policy which, inter-alia, contains a grievance redressal mechanism, and also underlines the need for a prescription audit and putting in place standard treatment guidelines so that the Free Drugs list can be made effectively implementable. The Free Drugs Policy is likely to be implemented in the state from the 1st June 2016.