Inadequate financing, inefficient procurement and unreliable supply are responsible for poor access to medicines in India, said a new report released Thursday.
The current spending on medicines both by the central and the state governments are a meagre 0.1 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
This needs to be scaled up to at least 0.5 percent of the GDP in the next five years, said the report by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and The Institute for Studies in Industrial Development (ISID).
In addition, the central and state government procurement and distribution systems must be made more efficient and reliable, it said.
They should be modelled on the Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation's centralised procurement and decentralized distribution system, the report said.
The direct price control on medicines has given way to liberalisation of the pharmaceutical sector, leading to a scenario where over 82 percent of the medicine market has been left outside the scope of price control under the National Pharmaceutical policy, 2012 and the Drugs (Price Control) Order, 2013.
"Clearly the interests of the pharmaceutical industry have received precedence over the interest of the patient population," the report said.
It goes on to say that the need of the hour is to increase the scope and coverage of price control, and since the current market-based formula is not expected to reduce the prices of medicines significantly, it is strongly recommended that cost-based formula be reinstated.
Yet another but continuing issue is to do away with irrational use of medicines in India.
Not only are hazardous and inessential medicines produced and sold in India but irrational prescription, dispensing and use of medicines is rampant, it said.
Several banned drugs continue to thrive in the Indian market, the report said, adding that evidence suggests that both domestic and foreign pharmaceutical companies in India are not making any significant contribution towards the development of new medicines.
"Policymakers should consider providing direct support for research and development with a clear focus on public health priorities of the country," it said.