The Union Health Ministry's ambitious schemes of providing free generic drugs and medical tests at government health centres have been launched after being put on hold last year due to financial constraints.

The initiatives, called 'Free Drug Service' and 'Free Diagnostics Service' under the National Health Mission, are aimed at sprucing up health care facilities in the country.

The Health Ministry has written to the states to take advantage of the scheme under which they can access funds from the central government by following certain guidelines laid down by it. The guidelines include appropriate systems for procurement, logistics and quality assurance, among others. The scheme was one of the government's keystone projects of the 12th Five-Year Plan.

"A person's medical expenditure in our country can be very high and people often end up in poverty while seeking treatment. Almost 33% people suffer from poverty due to their medical expenditures," an official said.

The free generic drugs scheme was proposed after a 2011 report of the High Level Expert Group which stated that 76% of the out-of-pocket expenditure on health is on drugs.

- PTI

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