On Wednesday, Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami announced that the government plans to install 32 self service kiosks in the state that would dispense drugs like an ATM machine.
The aim is reportedly to reduce queues outside pharmacies and increase efficiency of medicine dispensation for ailments including tuberculosis, diabetes and hypertension. These drugs, procured by the Tamil Nadu Medical Service Corporation, will be given for free to patients treated in government hospitals.
According to reports, a QR code in the prescription will be used to identify the drugs to be dispensed. The 32 kiosks will be set up at a cost of Rs 80 lakh. Twenty-three of the kiosks will be set up at government medical college hospital and urban primary health centres in cities including Chennai.
This is however not the first time the state government has planned to launch ATMs in the state to dispense drugs. In 2018 too, officials in the health department outlined a similar plan.
Former health secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan had said, "The biggest advantage is that it allows us to keep track of patients with chronic ailments. Patients who need long-term therapy are asked to meet their doctors once in three months. The hospitals give them drugs for one month and ask them to come back for supplies for next two months. The third time, they meet the doctor."
This move will reportedly also help the government tide over the existing staff crunch in state pharmacies and allow people from all sections of society to avail free services. The plan then had been to open the ATMs at all government hospitals.
Currently, Tamil Nadu boasts of the largest treatment program in the country, with lakhs of residents receiving drugs for diabetes and blood pressure, free of cost. The government believes that the ability to track drug users can also help ensure they do not drop out of treatment, especially in cases of tuberculosis, where uninterrupted medication is crucial.
On Tuesday, Health Minister C Vijaya Baskar further announced that patient support groups, similar to Alcoholic Anonymous, will be established in 47 blocks for people with hypertension and diabetes.