May God Help The Poor!

I am surprised at the analogy of Dr. Sumit Ghosal in his article "It is Good for Medicines to be Expensive!"to stop unnecessary drug use. He feels that if medicines were costly, then people would think twice before consuming it. He definitely has a point in that, but then what he is forgetting is increasing the price of drugs would take away treatment more from the poor and the common masses.

I believe in India, the problem is not with price, but rather the root of this pill-popping disease lies in its availability. I have seen in lost of medicine shops, the counter salesman pose as demi-doctors to poor patients and carelessly but confidently prescribe drugs to them with dosages according to their free will. Once I asked one of these counter salesmen, why he dared to do such a thing? He replied sweetly, this patient does not have the means to go to a doctor and pay his fees. We are popular because these patients get an average benefit out of the drugs we prescribe without the cost burden. They are not much concerned about its side effects, as long as he is cured fast.

Now, if we go by Dr. Ghosal's solution, then how can this person treat himself? It is easy to be an idealist; but when you are faced with the hard realities of poverty, such measures of price increase does not hold well. Yes. Dr. Ghosal is right, when he says people would think twice before popping pills due to the cost; but he was not pragmatic enough to suggest any such measures by which the people with extremely low earnings can afford a decent health care. 

In United States I have seen two categories of medicines available. Some, which are OTC (Over the Counter) drugs and most of them Prescription drugs. If the Doctor has prescribed any drug to me on a prescription, I would have to leave it at a drug store. The drug store then prepares my packet of drugs, keeps a medical record and for any queries gets back to the doctor who has prescribed the same. And also most of the costs are covered by the patient's health insurance where he is more or less covered by the risks of diseases and health calamities.

I am not a medical professional, and my only relationship with medicines is when I get sick myself. But I sincerely feel that increasing the price is not a solution. I guess the solution lies in restricting the availability of medicines over the counter. Also medicine shops should stamp on the prescription, so that multiple purchases with the same prescription is not possible. They should also be strict on the numbers that they sell to the patient so that excesses are not mis-utilized later on.

If Dr. Ghosal is worried about quality of drugs, he should not go to the extent of increasing the price ten fold. On the other hand he should encourage medical corporates to re-look into their processes and improve the quality of their produces. Profitability of these companies should be looked from a holistic angle with the entire product range and not on each product per say. I believe Dr. Ghosal would use his own site and his good offices at Indian Express to spread the message across to these corporates, and help shape a better medical future for India.


More by :  Subrata Mukherjee

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