KATHMANDU: The Ministry of Health and Population is adding medicines for depression, psychosis and epilepsy on its list of drugs that are meant to be distributed fo free. The drugs for mental illnesses are relatively expensive and should be taken for a longer period, chief of the Primary Health Care Revitalisation Division at the ministry, Dr Anand Kumar Shrestha.
Through this initiative, the government intends to lessen the financial burden of mental health patients, who are often stigmatised in our society, he said.
“The government and the general public have neglected mental illnesses for long. Keeping this in view, the division wants to include these medications on the list of free medicines to provide moral support to the patients,” the chief said.
The government is incorporating mental illnesses within Standard Treatment Protocol for Health Post and Sub-Health Post. The division’s work towards this end is in the final stage, he said.
The move comes at a time when one forth of the patients visiting the hospitals are diagnosed with one or other forms of mental disorders, Shrestha informed.
Patients can collect their free drugs from primary health care services and sub-health posts where a doctor would be posted to diagnosis the disease, Dr Shrestha said.
Although the government may have to shoulder financial burden initially, this move will benefit the country in the long run, Shrestha said.
Since 2006, 40 essential drugs have been distributed for free to all district hospitals, 35 drugs to primary health posts and 25 drugs to health posts, especially for the poor, marginalised and ethnic groups, deprived, disabled, elderly and female community health volunteers.
Many people are suffering from depression, psychosis and epilepsy in the post-conflict period, associate professor of psychiatry at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, Dr Saroj Prasad Ohja, said.
“If the government provides free medicine to these people, mental diseases will be reduced by 40 to 50 per cent,” said the associate professor.
However, the government should provide the medicines in a sustainable way as mental health patients require to take their medication for at least three years.
Although Nepal has no reliable data on mental illnesses, about 20 per cent of patients visiting the hospitals are reported to be suffering from one or other kind of mental condition, added Ojha.