India to give free generic drugs to hundreds of millions
By Henry Foy
MUMBAI | Thu Jul 5, 2012 12:00am EDT
(Reuters) - India has put in place a $5.4 billion policy to provide free medicine to its people, a decision that could change the lives of hundreds of millions, but a ban on branded drugs stands to cut Big Pharma out of the windfall.
From city hospitals to tiny rural clinics, India's public doctors will soon be able to prescribe free generic drugs to all comers, vastly expanding access to medicine in a country where public spending on health was just $4.50 per person last year.
The plan was quietly adopted last year but not publicized. Initial funding has been allocated in recent weeks, officials said.
Under the plan, doctors will be limited to a generics-only drug list and face punishment for prescribing branded medicines, a major disadvantage for pharmaceutical giants in one of the world's fastest-growing drug markets.