A TI Nepal study report titledPolicies and Practices of the Government of Nepal on the free distribution of Medicines” was released today (5 August 2016) by Hon. Ms. Ranju Kumari Jha, Chairperson of Parliamentary Women, Children, Senior Citizens and Social Welfare Committee, in the presence of an array of public health officials, health care advocates, social workers, civil society organizations and the media.

The Government of Nepal during the fiscal year 2064/65 had decided to distribute forty (40) types of medicines free of cost to all its citizens. Furthermore, on 30 August 2015, the number of free medicine was increased from forty to seventy. The study is based on the survey result which sought to identify the experience and perception of local citizens (295 service users and 98 government health institutions) across fourteen districts of Nepal.

The study identified a number of challenges pertaining to the distribution of free medicine which includes: the lack of timely availability and access to free medicine; demand exceeding domestic supply; procurement and distribution of medicine that is close to expiring; delays in budget disbursement and other procurement complexities.

The study provides following recommendations: secure and disburse required budget on a timely manner, supply essential medicines to the health posts on a regular basis, identify the most consumed medicine and provide safe storage of such medicines locally. The study also maintains that strong emphasis on monitoring of the quality of the medicine and a strong system to check the date of expiry and to make medicines for complex disease readily available should be introduced by the government.

To ensure that the program bears the indented results, educating and informing citizens about kinds and number of free medicines available to them and focusing on gradually increasing the number of medicine available should be the emerging priority needs of the government. In the meantime, district health institutions should ensure that the procured medicine should have longer time validity and should conduct a need assessment in their respective areas of control to match the demand the supply at the local level. Similarly, health ministry should focus on developing a working standard, undertaking effective monitoring, and labeling medicines as “freely distributed medicine”.