Spending on medicines alone has pushed 38 million people to below poverty line in India in 2011-12, of the 55 billion people impoverished due to total health costs including lab tests and others, said a report. Furthermore, a large share of annual household expenditures in the country is incurred into financing hospital treatment of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, a study by three experts from the Public Health Foundation of India that was published in the British Medical Journal said. The report also stated that cancer holds the highest likeliness of resulting in “catastrophic expenditure” for a household among all the non-communicable ailments.
If expenditure on health constitutes more 10 percent or more of overall consumption expenditure of a household, it is said to be catastrophic. The proportion of the population reporting out-of-pocket (OOP) payments on medicines has increased from about 60 percent in 1993-1994 to 80 percent in 2011-12.
The three authors of the Public Health Foundation of India analysed data from nationwide consumer expenditure surveys of two decades (1993-94 up to 2011-12) and the ‘Social Consumption: Health’ survey carried out by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in 2014.
“As far as poverty gap is concerned, based on the Indian official poverty line, total OOP payments and OOP payments on medicines resulted in poverty deepening among poor by INR29 and INR23, respectively, in 2011–2012. Further poverty deepening because of total and medicines OOP payments sharply increased in 2012 compared with that in the years 2004–2005 and 1993–1994,” the report said.
The study also highlighted efforts by the successive governments to bring down the expenditure incurred on medicines through efforts in form of the National Health Policy 2017 and a recent pronouncement to bring legislation for physicians to prescribe drugs only in generic names, hold promise for reducing households’ OOP payments on medicines.