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Photo: Rajkumar/Mint
Photo: Rajkumar/Mint

Jammu and Kashmir to provide free medicines in all government health facilities

Jammu and Kashmir is the last state in India to implement free medicine policy

New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir on Friday notified a policy to provide free medicines in all government health facilities. It is the last state to do so.

Now, all citizens of the country are formally covered by the free drugs policy of the central government.

“The State Administrative Council (SAC) today cleared the Free Drug Policy of J&K. With this, the policy has been notified," said Madan Lal Bhagat, joint director, health and medical education department, government of Jammu and Kashmir.

In the absence of a government in the state, as it is under President’s rule, SAC constituted on 5 February, which is currently the highest decision-making body. It is headed by governor N.N. Vohra.

Under the free drugs policy, all government health facilities provide essential medicines free of cost to patients, based on prescriptions by government doctors. They usually provide generic medicines, unless a branded medicine is the only option available in a particular category.

Tamil Nadu was the first state to notify a policy for free medicines in 1995. After a gap of more than a decade, Rajasthan became the second state to adopt the model in 2011, followed closely by Karnataka.

“It is good that all the states have finally accepted Free Drugs Policy. We have been pushing for this since 2008 and efforts have borne fruit," said Narendra Gupta from Rajasthan-based non-profit Prayas and convenor, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, the India chapter of the People’s Health Movement.

“National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) was launched in 2005 and even by 2008 it did not make a big difference. We realised it was because the focus of NRHM was on preventive care, ignoring the needs of patients going to health facilities," said Gupta.

As nearly 70% of out-of-pocket expenditure of patients seeking healthcare was on medicines, it was felt that addressing this need would help. “Hence, health experts started talking about such a policy," said Gupta.

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