Centre's AMRIT to sell cancer drugs 50 to 60% cheaper

Over 200 cancer drugs, along with 186 medicines for cardiovascular diseases, 148 stents and cardiac implants will now be available at central government hospitals at prices 50-60 per cent than lower than the open market, under the Ministry of Health's AMRIT scheme.

The Affordable Medicines and Reliable Implants for Treatment (AMRIT) programme, under which the government will run pharmacy retail stores to sell medicines in hospitals like All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Safdarjung Hospital and Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.

The health ministry is working on a project to make cancer medicines and stents available at a substantially lower price, procuring the drugs in bulk at a negotiated price and supplying them to hospitals and consumers through its own retail system.

The move aims to make the treatment of critical diseases more affordable by lowering the cost of medications, constituting the major part of the total health expenditure, mainly in case of tertiary care.

"This is certainly an innovative initiative. Patients can buy medicines and implants at rates 50-60 per cent cheaper than open market from AMRIT outlet in AIIMS," health minister J P Nadda said while inaugurating the first store.

"The government is pinning a lot of hope on it. We are exploring the possibility of scaling up the facility and also making it accessible to larger number of people in various parts of the country," he added.

"Under the AMRIT programme, we want to give medicines at an affordable cost. We have identified 202 drugs of cancer and cardio-vascular diseases where the price is going to reduced on an average by 60 to 90 percent. In the same way, 148 cardiac implants will be given from the centre and sold here and their cost will be reduced by 50 to 60 percent," IANS quoted Nadda as saying.

"Some of the prices of the AMRIT Pharmacy drugs are strikingly low such as Amrit will sell 'Docetaxel 120mg' used for chemotherapy cycle at Rs.888.75 (93 per cent rebate) for one cycle, when the MRP of the injection is Rs.13,440. Similarly, Caboplatin 450 mg would be sold at Rs.1,316.25 while its MRP is Rs.2,561.57," AIIMS director MC Misra said, IANS reported.

The pharmacy had been opened as a pilot project, and the government hopes open more pharmacy retail stores at other central hospitals, including Safdarjung Hospital and Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, to sell drugs at hospitals at discounted rates.

"After 15 days we are going to review the programme, and in the coming times, we will try to replicate it in all central hospitals," he said.