India’s ‘Medicine Baba’ Gets Drugs From Rich, Gives to Poor

Friday, July 24, 2015

Omkarnath spends his days searching New Delhi for drugs. A call to the phone number printed boldly on his saffron-colored tunic reveals his alternate identity: “Hello, I am Medicine Baba.”

The chatty, 79-year-old retired blood-bank technician has been collecting unused prescription drugs from the affluent for the past eight years, and distributing whatever hasn’t expired to patients who need medicines they cannot afford.

Omkarnath, who like many Indians uses only one name, is not a trained pharmacist, and must see a doctor’s prescription before he’ll help supply any drug. He doesn’t charge, though he says the value of what he gives away each month is more than $9,000.

“Every bungalow in Delhi has extra medicines, but they are throwing them in their dustbins,” says Omkarnath, who walks with a limp after an accident that left him with dislocated bones in both legs.

“Medicine Baba” — baba is an honorific term meaning wise man — walks more than 7 kilometers (4 miles), stopping door-to-door to ask for unused medicines. On one such trip Sunday, he had collected a huge bagful of donated prescriptions in just an hour and a half.

Some 40 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people have no access to modern medicines because they are too expensive or simply unavailable in government hospitals where supplies are often scarce.

Meanwhile, India is exporting 45 percent of the $25 billion in pharmaceuticals it produces each year.

Source: ABC News (link opens in a new window)

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