Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[op-ed snap] Pills within reach

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Medicines use in India

Context

The Indian government is planning to allow local retail outlets to sell common drugs. 

Other features

    • As per the proposal, the Centre would let regular shops retail over-the-counter medicines such as paracetamol. 
    • These drugs would contain key information on side effects and the appropriate dosage in local languages.

Benefits

    • Geographical reach – The wide availability of these medicines would offer relief to people living in far-flung areas where pharmacies are few and far between.
    • Issue of self-medication – In India, self-medication is highly prevalent, particularly in rural areas.  If non-prescription drugs can be bought at a local corner shop, it could help lower treatment costs for millions of people who have no chemist closeby.
    • Doctor availability – There aren’t enough qualified doctors in the country. Reports suggest that about two-thirds of all doctors in India cater to urban areas. Going to a doctor proves to be time-consuming and expensive for rural folks.

Challenges

    • Regulation – It is alarming for those who insist on strict regulation of who is allowed to dispense medicines. 
    • Health hazard – The popping of pills without any medical authorization or knowledge could pose an immediate health risk. 
    • Overuse – Easy availability could also result in an overuse of some over-the-counter drugs, compromising people’s health over a longer span of time. This has already happened in the case of antibiotics, whose rampant overuse has turned several strains of disease-causing bacteria resistant to these drugs.
    • Greater concerns – Given the ground conditions in India, the benefits could outweigh those worries.
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