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Access to Medicines, Medical Devices And Vaccines in the Indian Context

India is one of the largest manufacturers and exporters of drugs and hence is known as the ‘global pharmacy of the South’. Ironically, despite this commendable capability to produce enough drugs to meet the needs of the global community, India faces major stumbling blocks in delivering these medicines to millions of households owing to physical and financial barriers.  This leads to substantial out-of-pocket expenditures often, ending up in debts.

Lately, medical devices, intended for use in the diagnosis and treatment of various medical conditions, too have become an integral part of our health system. Due to lack of equitable access and affordability, these devices are confined only to certain sections of the society. According to the UN development group, access can be defined as “continuous availability and affordability at public or private health facilities or drug outlets that are within one hour’s walk of the population”. However there are many hurdles in making these medicines and medical devices accessible. These include:

Inefficient financing mechanisms – General revenue, social health insurance, private health insurance, community financing, out-of-pocket spending, and external aid are majorly observed health financing mechanisms. Developing countries face underfunding of public health system pushing its citizens to spend their healthcare expenditures out of pocket. In India, the ratio of private to public funding is nearly 4:1.

Drug prices – Drug prices play a key role in the access to medicines and health financing especially in low income countries. An increase of 40% was reported in all drug prices during 1996 to 2006.

Inefficient medical supply systems – Drug stock outs and shortages can be overcome by implementing reliable and efficient procurement and distribution system. Centralized purchasing of drugs at central level and each state level would ensure efficient procurement and distribution since the decentralization of the same would result in improper utilization of funds released under health financing. Efficient governance, administration, transparency and accountability are responsible for efficient procurement and distribution of drugs.

Use of irrational drugs – Pharmaceutical market is flooded with a lot of irrational and hazardous drugs. Despite ban, many banned drugs continue to be marketed with the approval of state drug controller. In addition to these, to cater to the demands of rising disease burden pharmaceutical companies have created huge supply driven demand.

Lack of regulation – An effective drug regulatory system is essential to keep a check on the price, quality and availability of drugs and to avoid the sale of unsafe and substandard drugs.

Effective access to medicines and medical devices can be achieved by certain measures such as increasing public spending on drug procurement to 0.5% of the gross domestic product and provide medicines free of cost to public; enforcing price regulation on formulations rather than on basic drugs; and effective price control of drugs and vaccines by strengthening regulatory agencies; implementing effective procurement and distribution of drugs; promoting rational use of drugs through educating patients and prescriber; and protect the safeguards provided by the patent law.


At JLI we offer multiple programs related to the pharmaceutical sector. Some of the programs include: Advanced Postgraduate Diploma in Pharmaceutical Medicine, Professional Diploma in Medico-jli-click-here-to-know-moreMarketing etc.

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