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Jan 11, 2018 10:37 AM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

TB drugs may soon be made free of cost in private pharmacies too

Once it is legally mandated for private pharmacies to start providing TB drugs free of cost, the coverage of treatment of the disease is expected to widen significantly.

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Tuberculosis (TB) patients are soon likely to get their medicines free of cost even from privately-run chemists, according to a report by Mint. Currently, only state-run pharmacies are liable to provide that benefit.


The Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) will deliberate on whether or not to go through with the idea in its January 22 meeting. Norms governing sale of medicines come under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.


As of now, TB patients can avail their free medicines benefit from state-run pharmacies, medical care units like primary health centres, government hospitals, and Community Directly Observed Treatment, Short Course (DOTS) providers.


Once it is legally mandated for private pharmacies to start providing TB drugs free of cost, the coverage of treatment of the disease is expected to widen significantly.


The proposal came up in the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) meeting held on December 28. The meeting was held with health ministry's central TB division.


Director General of Health Services Jagdish Prasad told Mint that this idea was proposed bearing in mind the increase in the number of TB cases across the country.


"We are of the view that TB drugs should be allowed to be dispensed free of cost by private pharmacists. Since they come under Schedule H1, it will become mandatory for the pharmacists to maintain records of such drugs," Prasad said.

In order to bring this proposal to force, it has been suggested that rule 65 (18) of Drugs and Cosmetics Act be amended.

The amendment will involve inserting a proviso for distribution and stocking of TB medicines under the government's Revised National TB Control Program (RNTCP) in private pharmacies.

“The DTAB may be deliberate and give its suggestions in the matter for necessary amendments in the rules in its upcoming meeting,” sources told the paper.

Tuberculosis is responsible for close to 4.2 lakh deaths every year, health ministry data suggests. In all, around 28 lakh patients seek treatment for TB from private hospitals each year.

Officials from the health ministry said that only half of all TB patients actually make use of the free medicine benefit, even though all state-run medical units provide it.

They believe that making these medicines available in private hospitals "will also help removing the stigma among that section of society which is hesitant to approach government-run centres for taking medicines."
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