The donation of Nu 10 million (M) that His Holiness the Je Khenpo presented to the health ministry on November 11 will go to Bhutan Health Trust Fund (BHTF).

BHTF’s programme officer, Lhaksam Chedrup, said BHTF organised a special Move for Health lottery in collaboration with Bhutan Lottery Limited for yearly steady income to finance vaccines and essential drugs sustainably. “The proceeds from the lottery will go directly to BHTF, which would be used to sustain the provision of essential drugs and vaccines which are the main components of primary health care.”

Essential medicines are those medicines that satisfy the health care needs of the majority of the population. They should, therefore, be available at all times in adequate amounts and in appropriate dosage forms at a price the community can afford.

As per 2016 National Essential Medicines List (NEML), there are 543 essential drugs. Of the total, 429 are allopathic. Rest are traditional medicines.

Lhaksam Chedrup said the NEML is compiled and developed by National Medicines Committee comprising of doctors, pharmacists and other relevant health professionals. “The committee meets at least once every two years to review the list and discuss other technical matters related to the pharmaceuticals.”

As per the national medicine policy, therapeutic need, relevance to national morbidity patterns, efficacy and safety, cost-effectiveness, ease and safety in dispensing and administration, the likelihood of patient compliance, and the treatment facilities available in the country are some of the selection criteria of essential medicines.

A total of 300,000 tickets (15,000 booklets) were printed this year. The estimated profit from the sale of all booklets after deducting the total expenses and prizes is about Nu 70M if all the ticikets are sold.

The lottery is distributed through ministries, dzongkhags, thromdes, and other agencies. Bhutan Lottery will organise and conduct the lottery draw on February 5, 2018.

The annual Move for Health Lottery is expected to raise about Nu 20M annually.

Lhaksam Chedrup said the initial capital fund target was set at USD 24M based on the projections in the late 1990s. Besides the contribution from the government and other donors, the health trust fund’s other source of income is the health contribution of one percent levied on all salaried employees of Bhutan which amounts to about Nu 190M annually.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, during an event to commemorate the Move for Health Walk on October 1, last year said that the health trust fund will be doubled from Nu 1.5B to Nu 3B in the next two years.

The fund stands at Nu 1.66B as of October this year and BHTF’s target is now revised to Nu 3B.

BHTF has spent about Nu 600M on essential drugs and vaccines since 2003. A total of Nu 219M has been spent to procure essential drugs and vaccines in the financial year 2016-17.

Dechen Tshomo