(2004; 64 pages)
Availability and affordability are key components in equitable access to essential medicines. There is lack of data on these key components in West Bengal and this is a limiting factor for the development of any people-oriented medicine policy. The study was funded and technically supported by World Health Organization (WHO) and Health Action International (HAI).
The present survey on the availability, pricing and affordability of medicines in West Bengal has attempted to obtain reliable data on these aspects, limiting itself to a select basket of essential medicines. It has shown that medicines that are obtained from public hospitals free of cost by patients are procured economically, but the overall availability in the public sector is disheartening and needs immediate redress. Medicines are readily available from private retail counters but this comes at a price higher than international reference prices, with some brand premium for many items. Standard treatments are mostly affordable, provided that the earning member of a family draws minimum daily wages at rates specified by the government. The study has not covered all therapeutic categories or all sectors that distribute medicines to the people, but these do not detract from the importance of the above results as basis for action and as baseline for future studies.