The medicines regulator is looking for details of 98 types of essential medicines free of charge

The Drug Administration Department has directed drug manufacturers and importers to provide details of the production and imports of drugs they supplied in the last three fiscal years.

The move by the national drug regulator aims to assess the proportion of essential medicines produced by domestic companies and foreign companies.

The government aims to be self-sufficient in the production of free essential medicines. We need details to determine the actual market coverage of domestic producers, said Narayan Dhakal, director general of the department. Once you find out the status of production and import of free essential medicines, we can take steps to promote production in the country.

State health facilities across the country provide up to 98 types of medicines free of charge to sick patients seeking care. Free essential medicines include medicines for communicable and non-communicable diseases. Earlier, the health ministry provided more than 70 types of drugs for communicable and non-communicable diseases from all district hospitals with at least 25 beds.

Patients used to receive more than 60 types of essential drugs in primary care centers and 35 types of drugs in health centers.

However, after the country adopted federalism in 2015, the number of drugs on the free list was increased to 98. The health ministry used to buy drugs and supply them to the districts. Later, the ministry began to allocate budgets for this purpose to provinces and local governments. What worries experts is that no agency guarantees the quality of medicines in the country.

We also plan to conduct a post-marketing survey of the drugs to monitor their quality, said Pramod KC, chief information officer of the department. We plan to start from Bagmati province and expand to other provinces next year.

According to KC, the drug inspector of the department will collect samples of free essential medicines distributed in the state health facilities, which will be tested at the DDA laboratory.

Public health experts urged the agencies involved to ensure the quality of drugs provided free to patients and to pay more attention to non-communicable diseases, which have long been responsible for more than two-thirds of the country’s total deaths .

At the same time, they asked the authorities involved to ensure the availability of free medicines in health facilities.

A 2019 study on the prevalence of non-communicable diseases by the Nepal Health Research Council found that non-communicable diseases accounted for 71 percent of deaths in the country. Reports show that heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lower respiratory infection and stroke are the leading killers.

A report from the STEP survey on risk factors for noncommunicable diseases jointly conducted by the World Health Organization, the health ministry and the Nepal Health Research Council revealed alarming signs on several issues: alcohol consumption, of tobacco, salt intake and junk food, vegetables. and fruit intake, and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Changing lifestyles, increased sedentary behavior, tobacco and alcohol consumption, and unhealthy diets are the leading causes of death and disability, according to several reports.

Experts say many people suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes, respiratory diseases and heart diseases, among others, could not afford to buy medicines, which is one of the reasons for the premature deaths. Doctors say that out-of-pocket payments are the reasons in many cases for drug discontinuation. Patients suffering from most non-communicable diseases cannot stop their medication without consulting their doctor.

According to doctors, medicines for most non-communicable diseases, blood pressure, diabetes, respiratory diseases and heart diseases only work when taken regularly. They advise that people suffering from these diseases do not stop their medication, even when their health returns to normal.

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