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MFIs, health experts discuss ways to provide cheap medicines to poor

Wednesday, 27 July 2011 - 6:27pm IST | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: dna

It is estimated that around 70% out of pocket expenditure is generally spent on medication.

It is estimated that around 70% out of pocket expenditure is generally spent on medication. And, while such high expenditure on medicines might not be a concern for the wealthy, it impacts the poor man's health in a negative way. To make generic drugs available to the latter, a few microfinance organisations have found a way out — tie up with pharmaceutical companies to get direct supply of generic drugs and sell them to the poor at rates that are 10% cheaper than the over-the-counter prices.

The move will not only help the poor to save money but will also encourage them to get better health treatment.

Two such organisations, Gujarat based Lok Swasthya SEWA Mandli, part of Self Employed Women's Association and Orissa based Gram Utthan have successfully experimented with this model and shared their experience at a conference in Ahmedabad on Tuesday.   

The two-day conference - 'Linking Health and Microfinance in India: Improving Incomes and Promoting Universal Health Care Access for the Poor' - has been organised by the Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar, Freedom For Hunger and Microcredit Summit Campaign.

Talking about the project Mirai Chatterjee of the SEWA Social Security said that they have a chain of 4 pharmacies. "You don't realise it, but every aspect of the chain from manufacturer to retailer charges you an arm and a leg. The advantage here is that we cut the margin (of commission they get) and so the drug is cheaper when it reaches the poor," she said, adding that they have the project running in municipal hospitals. They also have a 24X7 shop at Civil Hospital to provide cheap generic drugs.

Govind Dash from the Gram Utthan of Orissa also shared details of a similar project where they have set up around 100 such shops known as Medicine Point in 204 villages in the coastal belt of Orissa.

"The organisation procures generic drugs directly from manufacturing companies and sells off products like sanitary napkins and bandages apart d

from generic drugs. It is important as not only are the drugs cheaper by around 10%, their availability at poor people's doorsteps encourages them to take advantage of health treatment. Otherwise, they have to travel 10 km to get a Rs 1 tablet, at a higher price," he told DNA.

They keynote address at the conference was delivered by SEWA founder Ela Bhatt. The conference was attended by experts in the field of micro-finance and health like Prof Dileep Mavalankar, Kathleen Stack from Freedom for Hunger and Dr DSK Rao from Microcredit Summit Campaign apart from others.

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