It was in 2012 that the Centre first promised to provide free drugs in public health facilities. The first budgetary provision was made in 2013. Last year, the promise was crystallized to providing 348 essential drugs free. This was later whittled down to just 50 drugs. And now, the entire idea of a central scheme for free drug distribution has been given a quiet burial.
Joint secretary (policy) in the health ministry Manoj Jhalani confirmed that there will be no separate central scheme for free drugs and diagnostics anymore. “Free drug provision will be done by the states under the National Health Mission (NHM). The Centre will financially incentivize states to start the free drug scheme. If a state initiates a free drug schemes and fulfils the condition of putting in place a quality assurance system, prescription audits and so on, it will be given 5 per cent of its NHM allocation as incentive. A large number of states have agreed to this,” said Jhalani.

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