The union health ministry’s target of distributing 50 drugs free under the free essential drug scheme is so much lower than the hundreds of drugs being provided by states with a functioning free drugs scheme that it has left health officials in these states puzzled.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan as health minister said, under the programme, 348 drugs in the NLEM were to be provided free from 1.6 lakh sub-centres, 23,000 primary health centres, 5,000 community health centres and 640 district hospitals. Even this target was quite modest in comparison to Tamil Nadu supplying over 650 drugs, Rajasthan over 600 drugs, Kerala over 771 essential drugs and Karnataka about 370 drugs.
“What will they cover with just 50 drugs? Which are these 50 drugs? We have not got any list so far. But we keep hearing that the Centre will provide funds for giving 50 drugs free. It is a ridiculously low number of drugs. We are already providing much more with our own funds and so we cannot be expected to take the Centre seriously on this,” said a state health official who did not want to be named.