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Zero-profit sale: Cancer drugs to get cheaper at Karunya pharmacies in Kerala

Currently, 74 Karunya pharmacies are selling 7,000 types of medicines of various companies at a discounted price.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a major relief to patients, the state government has decided to sell expensive cancer drugs through Karunya community pharmacy without taking any profit.

As many as 800 types of medicines, including drugs used after organ transplant surgeries, will be made available through ‘zero-profit’ sale at Karunya outlets, said Health Minister Veena George. The decision would further reduce the cost of medicines supplied through Karunya Pharmacy, which takes up to 12% profit in general.

“The availability of cheaper medicines will help patients reduce treatment cost. The government is making a decisive intervention in the cancer drug market in the state,” said Veena. The health minister said the project will start on July 15 at the main Karunya outlets in each district centre. These outlets will have separate profit-free counters and separate staff to manage the project.

Currently, 74 Karunya pharmacies are selling 7,000 types of medicines of various companies at a discounted price. The Kerala Medical Services Corporation (KMSCL), which procures medicines and supplies it through Karunya outlets, is charting out plans to implement the price cut.

“At present, we provide medicines at discounts ranging from 38%to 93%. The profit percentage has come down from 12% to 8% under this government,” said an officer.

‘Zero-profit margin will help patients’

“The aim is to further reduce the cost after meeting the administrative expenses,” the officer said. Dr Bipin K Gopal, State Nodal Officer for Non-Communicable Diseases and the state coordinator of the District Cancer Control Programme said the ‘zero-profit’ margin would help cancer patients as a significant portion of the treatment expenses go into the purchase of medicines.

Public health experts such as Dr V Ramankutty and Dr B Ekbal have been vocal advocates of government intervention to reduce the cost of medicines. A study by Kochi-based oncologist Dr Aju Mathew found that around 50% of the cancer patients in the country struggle financially with managing their cancer care. The situation in Kerala, which is known for high out-of-pocket spending by the public, irrespective of financial status, is similar.

The New Indian Express