New Delhi: The malaise over children’s healthcare in Gorakhpur runs deeper than the recent scandal over the deaths of 70 children.

According to a recent report, various cities in Uttar Pradesh including Gorakhpur are struggling to maintain stocks of essential medicines for children.

A survey on the availability of essential medicines in Lucknow, Kanpur, Meerut, Varanasi, Jhansi and Gorakhpur, published in International Journal of Medical Science and Public Health reveals children’s medicines in the public sector health facilities of UP is extremely poor, while these drugs cost more in the private sector.

Researchers at the Department of Pharmacology, Dayanand Dinanath College, Kanpur, studied 10 child-specific formulations covering common therapeutic classes—antibiotics such as oral cotrimoxazole, oral amoxicillin and clavulanic acid, gentamicin injection, and azithromycin syrup, anti-pyretic–analgesic (for fever) such as liquid paracetamol and ibuprofen, anti-anemia medicines such as ferrous salt drops, and anti-diarrhoea medicines and vitamin A.

These medicines are a part of National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM), prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and included in the National Rural Health Mission (NHRM).

“Both public sector and charitable health facilities procure only one brand of medicines keeping the lowest price in mind, the mean percentage availability of medicines being 17% and 21.8% respectively.

In the private sector, the mean percentage availability of the high-and low-priced medicines for a particular drug product was 10.8% and 38.5%, respectively. Availability of antibiotics was consistently less in most of the outlets except antibiotic oral cotrimoxazole (81.9%) in public sector and amoxicillin and clavulanic acid dry syrup (53.7%), azithromycin syrup (68.3%) in public sector," the research said.

The study however found that oral rehydration solution (ORS)and oral paracetamol solutions for fever were widely available in all three sectors.

“A strategic policy is needed to be kept in place to keep selected essential lifesaving medicines for children in all medicine outlets. Looking at the poor availability of medicines and low procurement price in the public sector, it was recommended that the government of Uttar Pradesh should prepare a separate essential medicine list for children and procure these medicines on an urgent basis," said Neelkanth M. Pujari, author of the study.

Over 30 children died in Gorakhpur on 9 and 10 August this year due to alleged disruption of supply of oxygen at BRD medical college. They were among 70 children who died in the hospital in just 22 days.

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