Legislators in India have announced a $5 billion plan to bring free medicine to hundreds of millions of Indians who today go without access to health care, officials said Thursday. Under the proposal, the government has chosen to cut out big pharmaceutical firms, such as GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, and will only buy generic versions of drugs for the program, a blow to Western drug makers who have vastly profited from India’s markets.
A pharmacist gives free medicine provided by the government, to a patient inside a government hospital in Kolkata July 3, 2012. (Photo: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri)Specialists told the New York Times the initiative could be the first step toward a more comprehensive universal health care system in India.
Currently, about 71 percent of spending on healthcare across the country comes directly out of consumer's pockets. “As a result of high health care costs, 40 million Indians are pushed into poverty each year,” Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, healthcare committee adviser for the Indian government told the New York Times.