How Medically Advanced Are We?

Posted on February 1, 2010 in Health and Life

Avneesh Kumar:

The burden of healthcare in India is put on the state governments in India. In this regard, the national healthcare policy was formulated in India in the year 1983 and then again in the year 2002. Under these policies, a comprehensive strategy was prepared by the government to provide necessary healthcare services. In these policies, help of large number of volunteers was taken, and private investors were also encouraged to provide specialized medical services to more and more people. In India it is expected that the share of private sector in the sphere of medical services is a very large one i.e. 75-80%, but still it would not be right to say that the role of the government was a lighter one. Diseases like Smallpox and Guinea Worm Disease have been eradicated from the country by the continuous efforts of the government; diseases like Polio, Leprosy, Kala Azar, and Filariasis etc are also expected to be eliminated by the government in the near future. The rate of infant mortality has also decreased in the last 20 years. If we talk about the long term achievements of the government – life expectancy which was 36.7 years in 1951, and 54 in 1981 has been increased to the level of 64.6 years in the year 2000; and the number of doctors which was 61800 in 1951 has been increased to 5, 03,900.

If we talk about the production of drugs and their export, we find that India is ahead of many countries. In the case of pharmaceutical industries, India retains the first position in the world. There has been great progress in the infrastructural facilities, technology base and in matters related to production. The Indian companies are exporting to Europe (23%), Asia and America; The Drugs and Pharmaceuticals sector has been able to attract FDI amounting to US $ 1428.96 million in the sector from April 2000 to December 2008. It has created employment to the tune of 2.20 lakh. India holds fourth position in terms of volume and thirteenth position in terms of value of production in pharmaceuticals. It is estimated that Indian Pharmaceutical industry has the potential to achieve over Rs 100000 crore till the end of this present year. If we talk about research and development, there are at least 10 Indian Companies, which are in the area of new drug discovery in the areas of infections, metabolic disorders like diabetes, inflammation, respiratory, obesity & cancer. Most of these companies have increased the spending on their research and development projects to the tune of 5% of their respective sales turnover. Many of the Western Pharma Companies have units in India, because of low cost scientific manpower and excellent infrastructure. India is becoming a new clinical research hub, and attracts more and more companies to set up research centers in India.

The healthcare sector in India is one of the largest sectors of India which is expected to rise at the rate of 12% per annum. Till the year 2012, it may contribute to up to 8% of the GDP. In the last years, there has been a great improvement in the emergency services and in other medical equipments in India. As the price of medical treatment in India is low, it also attracts patients from other countries, like in the year 2004, as many as 1 lakh and eighty thousand patients from the world came to India for treatment. The sector has registered a growth of 9.3% from the year 2000 to 2009. With the estimation of the average household increase by more than 7% per annum, the annual healthcare expenditure is projected to grow at the rate of 10-11% per annum.

Our healthcare sector is getting more and more capital from financial investors and private equity funds. Funds such as ICICI Ventures, IFC, Ashmore and Apax Partners invested about US$ 450 million in the first six months of 2008-09 compared with US$ 125 million in the same period a year ago. The government of India is planning to put in an investment of 1 billion to 2 billion dollar in this area, with the help of private investors; it will make India one of the top five pharmaceutical hubs of the world.

But there is a lot to be done. It is estimated that half of the Indian children are underweight, annually 22 lakh infants and children die from preventable illnesses; 1 lakh mothers die during child birth and an estimated 5 lakh people die of Tuberculosis. Diarrhoea and Malaria continue to be killers while 5 million people are suffering from HIV/AIDS. This is mainly because whatsoever advancements took lace, most are in the private sector; the reforms of the public sector are minisical if we compare them to that of private sector. It resulted in great suffering to the poor and vulnerable classes of the people in the country, because they are not in a position to afford the hefty bills of the private sector hospitals. India will need to invest 14.4 billion dollar in area of healthcare till the year 2025.