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Where was rising health expenditure in the Indian government budget?

11 July 2014 Mark Hollis

For some, any hope of a change in pharmaceutical and healthcare policy from India's much extolled new government were dashed the moment the new Indian finance minister sat down from his first major speech. Certainly, confidence in the minister's ability to drive much needed policy change for Pharma has been lost as the minister struggled to discuss healthcare policy with any real credibility or conviction to an audience who at times appeared to be struggling to stay awake.

The real issues and important messages from the budget were not what was in the speech but what wasn't. The one big thing everyone expected was a massive increase in healthcare spending. It was only through trawling tediously through pages and pages of annexes that I discovered government healthcare expenditure was to increase, but by such a small amount it could have been a rounding error.

What makes this all the more shocking was the fact the new health minister has been trumpeting big policy changes like universal health insurance. Was this a government U-turn? I think yes. Where was the health minister on this? Why, when he was initially so praised, has he shown real disregard for this policy?

Also conspicuously quiet is the minister of chemicals, the man who should be pushing a pro-Pharma agenda. So far all we have heard from this minister is calls for more drug price caps. Where is the drive to improve research, standards and revive the stagnant clinical trials sector? At least with few grand policy ideas we are less likely disappointed when he doesn't deliver.

I was one of the people who believed strongly in this new government's ability to change pharma and healthcare policy for the better. But today my hopes are dashed unless the government makes a quick, concerted effort to reverse this false start - and the prospects for this don't look good.

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