KATHMANDU, Aug 6: The government has been distributing medicines free of cost when they near the expiration date under the free distribution scheme, according to a latest report by Transparency International Nepal.
In its report titled 'Government's Policy and Practice of Distributing Free Medicine', Transparency International Nepal has indicated some pressing problems in the scheme. The government has not been able to supply medicines that are available free of cost at public health facilities, the report stated, adding that the government has been unable to ensure timely availability of the medicines.
The government has also been providing low quantity medicines at public health facilities, according to the report. The report has identified the lengthy procurement process of the government for the delay in delivering essentials drugs to the government health facilities. The responsible agencies do not earmark and start contract process on time, thereby causing delay in supply process, said the report.
The report has recommended the government to release the budget on time to ensure that the free medicines are available around the year at public health facilities.
It has suggested to the government to manage drug storage facilities in all health institutions. Similarly, the report has also emphasized on the need of checking expiry dates of medicines before dispatching them to the public health facilities in various parts of the country. Quality is the big issues that the government should not ignore, the report said.
The report has also recommended the government to revise the list of medicines included in the free of cost medicine distribution scheme. “Some essential drugs that public health institutions need on a daily basis should be included in the list,” the report stated. The government needs to add some life-saving drugs that are required for treatment of patients admitted to intensive care units (ICU), the report has recommended.
The government introduced the free of cost medicine distribution scheme from the fiscal year 2006/07 aiming at providing essential medicines to the patients coming to government hospitals. In the beginning, the government had decided to provide 40 types of medicines for free under this scheme. The government included additional 30 types of medicines in the list since August 2015.
The report has suggested to the government to bolster monitoring effort to ensure effectiveness of the medicine distribution scheme. The government should introduce the provision to compulsorily put the label of free medicines to all medicines distributed under the free of cost medicine distribution scheme.
The research was conducted in 14 districts covering health service providers, beneficiaries and other stakeholders, according to Transparency International Nepal.