The Free Drugs Service is an initiative of the Government of India which was launched in 2013-14 under the Health and Family Welfare program of the National Health Mission. The program is aimed at providing healthcare support to the ones who need them. In addition to that, it is also directed to provide them access to essential medicines free of cost. These services will be provided through government health institutions and hospitals.
Back story of the Free Drugs Service project
In the last few years, the healthcare costs have gone up drastically in India. Owing to this, a big strand of the population is not able to access the minimum healthcare facilities. Out of this part of the population, a large portion belongs to rural India. The Free Drugs Service program was initiated by the Government of India to provide the essential medical services and drugs to this strand of the population. These services include cost of surgery and necessary medicines for life threatening diseases like neonatal issues, cancer, hemophilia, cardiological issues, nephrological issues, thalassemia, neurological issues, and so on.
How does the Free Drugs Service project work?
The Free Drugs Service project is a unique initiative and through this project, the Government of India has extended essential drugs which are procured in generic form and are provided to the OPD and IPD patients without charging any money for the same. This project can be availed by the people of Assam in the government hospitals.
The Government of Assam has implemented the scheme for the provision of the essential drugs and surgical items for free for almost all categories. This will be offered through the government health facilities which include PHC, CHC, medical colleges, and DH across 27 districts in the state. The following progression is the flowchart on the basis of which the project works in Assam:
Essential Drugs List or EDL
A new EDL or Essential Drugs List has been circulated on the basis of the standard pointed out by the National Essential Drug List (NELM). The procurement action for the drugs are taken care of on the basis of the Essential Drugs List (EDL) that the state has set for itself.
Procurement of Drugs
The National Health Mission (NHM) and the Directorate of Health Services are responsible for the procurement process of drugs in the state. The tenders for the drugs are sent out on the basis of the Essential Drugs List (EDL) which is notified by the state government for different sector of healthcare.
The procurement process begins after the districts communicate their individual drugs requirement through the respective District Drugs Stores Managers (DDSMs) to the Procurement Agency. The past data of consumption of drugs is taken into consideration by the DDSMs in order to figure out the requirement. This data is then communicated to the procurement agency which takes care of the procurement and supply of the drugs.
Warehousing and Distribution facilities
The drugs ordered by the DDSMs are usually delivered by the vendors directly at the District Drug Stores. The distribution plan is jotted down by the state itself. The payments are made after the receipt, inspection, and stock charging of the drugs at the respective district drug stores. The payments are released for the vendors after this process is completed.
There are 5 regional warehouses in the state which are equipped with slotted angle racks and pallets for the storage of the drugs. They also have mechanical stackers and pallet trolleys which are helpful for the movement of large stacks of the drugs.
Drugs Monitoring System
In recent times, the CDAC has also signed a Memorandum of Association (MoA) and will be taking care of the total drugs supply chain management of the state which includes district drug store and peripheral hospitals as well.
NHM, Assam has a set of regulatory and quality assurance checklist which it maintains to make sure that the quality of the drugs which are being circulated under this project are up to the mark. Some of the best practices which have been adapted by the NHM are as follows:
- The average annual sales of the manufacturer in the past 3 years should not be less than Rs.20 crore.
- The supplies will be accompanied by batch-wise test analysis reports which will be processed by a NABL certified laboratory.
- The bidder must possess a valid drug license or manufacturing license which is issued by the concerned Drug Control Authority.
- The manufacturing unit should be in complete compliance with the provisions of WHO GMP or COPP.
- The manufacturers must have been selling the products which are being offered for 3 years or more.
- The Drug Control Authority of the state engages an Inspector of Drugs who takes care of the regular sampling and testing of the products which are supplied by the manufacturers. He is also responsible for sending out this data for analytical testing to the NABL Government laboratories.