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Monday, June 7, 2010

Edition 23: Can we get Medicines at Fair prices?

P. K. Mohanty
Over the years, India has developed a strong capability in producing generic medicines in almost all the therapeutic categories. These medicines are being sold mostly as branded medicines which push up the retail price of these medicines. There is still a large population of poor people in the country which finds it difficult to afford these medicines. In fact access to quality health care is a challenge in a developing country like India.

According to NSO estimates, upto 79% cost of health care in rural areas is due to cost of medicines. This problem gets further aggravated as upto 80% of expenditure on health care is out-of-pocket. With 65% of India’s population not having access to modern health care (WHO estimates 2008) the entire problem is compounded several times.

Access to quality medicines at affordable prices is a key challenge for the Government. In this connection the prices of branded medicines are generally higher than generic medicines due to various reasons inter-alia including branded drugs having patent protection and a number of drugs having limited regulation through the Drug Prices Control Order, 1995 etc,. A sample comparison of some of the prices, shows the vast difference between the Generics Price and the Market price. Therefore, making available medicines at affordable prices has been taken up by the newly created Department of Pharmaceuticals.

Name of salt Dosage Pack Market Price (Rs.) Generics Price (Rs.) Difference
Antibiotic: Ciprofloxacin 250 mg 10 55.00 11.10 5 times higher
Pain Killer: Diclofenac 100 mg 10 36.70 3.50 10 times higher
Common Cold: Cetrizine 10 mg 10 20.00 2.75 7 times higher
Fever: Paracetamol 500 mg 10 10.00 2.45 4 times higher
Pain & Fever Nimesulide 100 mg 10 25.00 2.70 9 times higher
Cough syrup 110 ml bottle 33.00 13.30 2.5 times higher

Jan Aushadhi Campaign
For fulfilment of this goal, a campaign in the name of ‘Jan Aushadhi Campaign’ has been launched. The aim of this campaign is to make available quality medicines at affordable prices for all, especially the poor and the disadvantaged. Under this campaign, less priced quality unbranded generic medicines will be made available through Jan Aushadhi stores which inherently are less priced but are of same and equivalent quality, efficacy and safety as compared to branded generic medicines.
The generic medicines are being supplied in the first instance by the Central Pharma PSUs which will ensure both quality and timely supply. Medicines not available currently with the CPSUs will be sourced from quality SME units. This will also give support to the Pharma SME sectored as well as promote public-private partnership and avenues for achievement of corporate social responsibilities geared towards affordable Medicare for the masses. The Jan Aushadhi Campaign has now been formalized as Generic Drug Scheme with the approval of the Planning Scheme.

Under this Scheme, the State Government has to provide space in Government Hospital premises for the running of the outlets (JAS). Government hospitals, NGOs, Charitable Organisations and public societies like Red Cross Society typically constituted for the purpose can be operating agencies for the JAS. It is run on the principle of “Not for Profits but with Minimal Profits”. In order to encourage and provide the initial trigger for above, it is envisaged that the Central Government would provide only a one-time assistance of Rs. 2.00 lakhs as furnishing and establishment costs and further Rs. 50,000 as one time start up cost to NGO etc,. setting up the Jan Aushadhi Outlet.

At present, 231 medicines are being supplied in the 44 JAS opened in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Orissa, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Union Territories of Chandigarh and Delhi.

Neanderthals live on in modern man
Mark Mattox/DW
If you found some human carrying the traits of the ancient human beings, don’t be surprised. Using genome sequencing, German researchers have made a discovery that proves that Neanderthals didn't die out some 30,000 years ago - at least not completely. Their DNA lives on.

Analysis has shown that Neanderthal DNA still lives on in modern man, disproving the long-held belief that the more primitive homo species never interbred with humans and had in fact died out some 30,000 years ago.
German scientists announced their findings on Friday in a paper published in the US journal Science, which shows that between 1 and 4 percent of the DNA in people living in Europe, China and New Guinea has Neanderthal origins. The rest is attributable to the main Homo sapiens line with its roots in Africa. Previous laboratory tests had missed the hard-to-find clues and assumed the two species forked 500,000 years ago, never to rejoin.

Ralf W. Schmitz, a University of Bonn scientist who took part in the study, said that now that they have uncovered the whole picture, they've proven that Neanderthals are a part of our ancestry.
"This is an incredible breakthrough for paleogenetics, and incredible breakthrough for archeology and for anthropology. This paper is an absolute milestone," he told German television station ZDF.
Living side by side
Historians have speculated that Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis hunter-gatherers made war with one another, but the finding shows they made love too, and could have produced children. That probably happened in the Middle East, where archaeological excavations show the populations existed side by side between 80,000 and 50,000 years ago. The mixed children spread to Asia and Europe.
The finding comes from a first draft of the Neanderthal genome, using partly rotted material from the bones of six individuals, sequenced at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

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