New Delhi: In an ambitious project, government proposes to provide free medicines to millions of people through a Rs 27,000 crore joint initiative of the Centre and states within this year. Under the plan, free generic drugs would be given at the public health facilities in states, according to a Health Ministry official.

The generics are off-patent medicines which cost much less than the patented drugs. Most of the commonly used drugs are generics in nature.

"This year, a new and ambitious initiative has been proposed for supply of free generic drugs in the public health facilities in the states," the official said, adding that it would help in expanding access to medicines.

The proposal which is a part of the 12th Plan involves Rs 20,000 crore outlay from the Centre and about Rs 7,000 crore from the states.

The Indian pharma industry has hailed the move saying, "any attempt by the government to provide medicines free of cost to the weaker sections of society is always welcome. We will support this initiative by the government," said D G Shah, secretary general of the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA).

It would also be a boost for the Rs 1.10 lakh crore domestic industry which thrives on generic drugs, not only in India but also in the export market.

"The Government has been sanctioning funds under various programmes, including the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). Last year a special initiative was undertaken to provide free drugs to women for deliveries in public hospitals and infants," the Health Ministry official said.


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