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Tamil Nadu shows the way in procurement of drugs: World Bank

By Our Special Correspondent

CHENNAI, DEC. 25. The World Bank has commended Tamil Nadu's model of drug procurement and distribution in its health care delivery system to other States to "beat corruption."

Making it a case study in its publication on the State Fiscal Reforms in India, the Bank said, "Procurement in general and drug procurement in particular are an area riddled with problems in several States. Drug procurement has been plagued by accusations of corruption, drug adulteration, tampering with minimum support prices and alleged pay-offs to health officials to procure expired or unneeded drugs for the State's hospitals."

Cutting cost, corruption

Tamil Nadu "appears to have found a way to reduce both costs and corruption, while ensuring regular supply of the right drugs at the right time.

The Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation (TNMSC) provides a model not only for procurement but also more generally for eliminating discretion and maximising transparency in government procurement."

The TNMSC was established in 1994 as a government company to procure, store and distribute drugs as well as surgical and suture items to all government hospitals and primary health centres (PHCs). It procures 268 drugs in bulk directly from manufacturers, reducing the price in the process. These drugs are drawn from the World Health Organisation's model list by a panel of doctors. They carry the `TG' logo, denoting the Tamil Nadu Government, to prevent unauthorised sale outside hospital dispensaries. The stock management is computerised.

Patients happy

The World Bank report cited a survey in the PHCs which showed that patients were reporting improvement in the quality of medicines and also recommending the PHCs to neighbours. Official data also showed a significant increase in the use of the PHCs in the last few years. Doctors there noted that before the advent of TNMSC, the PHCs were dumped with medicines which looked alike and many of the drugs arrived close to the end of their shelf life or expiry date.

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