Rajasthan has decided to distribute 200 new generic drugs free of cost.
Under the Chief Minister's Free Medicine Scheme launched Oct 2 last year, 414 most-used drugs and surgical instruments are at present available at 14,964 distribution centres in government health centres, dispensaries and hospitals across the state.
Considering the popularity of the programme, which has so far benefited over 44 million patients, the state government recently sanctioned an additional budget of Rs.11 crore to bring another 200 drugs and surgical instruments under it.
"The free medicine scheme has been very well received by the masses and now we plan to make it more beneficial by adding 200 new generic drugs and surgical instruments," Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot told IANS.
Two of the most common diseases for which free medicines are provided at the distribution centres are hypertension and diabetes. Also available are antacid and analgesic drugs.
"A budget provision of Rs.200 crore was made in 2011-12 and Rs.300 crore in 2012-13 under the scheme," the chief minister said.
"Quality medicines are purchased by the Rajasthan Medical Services Corporation at low cost and supplied to the drug stores set up in all the 33 districts of the state. Effective arrangements have also been made for the distribution of these medicines," Gehlot added.
He said the scheme was a major step towards providing social security to citizens.
The popularity of the health scheme can be gauged by the fact that there has been an average 40-50 percent increase in the number of patients coming to government hospitals since its launch.
"In September 2011, we were getting on an average around 4.4 million patients monthly at state government hospitals, but now this figure has reached 6.2 million," a health department official said.
However, unavailability of medicines and long queues of patients due to lack of counters and shortage of doctors are still major challenges for the project.
"We are working to resolve these problems and soon more steps would be taken to improve the situation," the official said.