Essential medicines remain elusive for the common man despite all claims on improving the health index of the countrymen. Union Government’s effort to ensure these drugs wider availability remains stuck somewhere midway. The study, published in the Journal of Global Health, assessed the rational use of drugs shown to be safe and effective and the availability of six essential medicines in 124 private pharmacies in Maharashtra. The study has found that despite there being multiple approved products listed in India databases, few were available in private pharmacies at a price people could afford. India’s 2015 national list of essential medicines consist of 376 drugs. These medicines should be widely available across the country in public health facilities such as health centres and hospitals. However, due to limited resources supplies in public health facilities, patients are forced to turn to the private sector where medicines are more expensive. In practices, competition within India’s vast market for generic drugs should ensure essential medicines are available in private retail outlets at a price people can afford. The six essential medicines were: Artemisinin (malaria), Lamivudine (HIV/AIDS), Rifampicin (tuberculosis control), Oxytocin (reproductive health), Fluoxetine (mental health) and Metformin (diabetes). The published study found that although multiple brands of essential medicines – running into thousands – were listed as available in India, only a few of these were available in pharmacies. Metformin was the only medicine with high availability, Rifampicin which was present in about half the pharmacies (64.5 per cent). The other four medicines were available in less than half, according to the study. Another area of concern was that medicines were available in multiple brands of fixed dose combinations where two or more drugs are combined in a set ratio in a single dose form, usually a tablet or a capsule. The study has concluded there is an urgent need for a consumer friendly central database which will enable people to verify manufacturing approval, efficacy and compare prices.
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