New Delhi: India proposes to start an initiative for free supply of essential medicines in public health facilities to provide affordable health-care to people in the country and reduce their expenses on medicines, Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Wednesday.

Announcing this at a conference on 'Responsible use of medicines' in Amsterdam, Netherlands, the Health Minister said this initiative will promote rational use of medicines and reduce the consumption of inessential, unscientific and hazardous medicines.

Responsible and rational use of medicines is a crucial part of the national health policy and access to medicines is one of the vital tools needed to improve and maintain health, he said.

"Considering that provision of affordable medicines is the responsibility of the public sector and the state, a fine balance has to be maintained between the private sector which operates on the demands of the market and the responsibility of the state for ensuring a positive benefit risk profile of available medicines...," Azad said.

The Health Minister said there is very high out-of-pocket expenditure on health in India, of which a larger part is on medicine. "We need to look at adherence to Standard Treatment Guidelines, curbing unethical promotion of medicines by drug manufacturers, better regulatory control over prescription and dispensing of medicine and also to make the consumer aware about the hazards of self-medication," Azad said.

He said India is facing an increasing threat of anti- microbial resistance and the Health Ministry has formed the National Policy for Containment of Anti-Microbial Resistance to tackle the menace as well as to promote rational and responsible use of antibiotics.


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