Per-capita healthcare expenditure in Bangladesh increased to $54 in 2020 from $37 in 2015, according to a new government report.
Out-of-pocket (OOP) health expenditure at individual level was recorded at 68.5 per cent of the total health spending in the country, it revealed.
A majority of the OOP was spent on the purchase of different types of drugs by health service recipients.
The Health Economics Unit (HEU) released the Bangladesh National Health Accounts 1997-2020 report at a city hotel on Wednesday.
Health and family welfare minister Zahid Maleque attended the programme as the chief guest with HEU director general (DG) Dr Enamul Haque in the chair.
Health Services Division secretary Anwar Hossain Howlader and Directorate General of Drug Administration DG Maj Gen Mohammad Yousuf, among others, attended the meeting.
HEU's BNHA cell focal person Dr Subrata Paul and director Khandoker Mohammad Rezaul Karim made two presentations on the Bangladesh National Health Accounts (Round VI).
The report cites Bangladesh as one of the countries with an extremely high rate of OOP health expenditure.
Under the SDG framework, OOP payment as a share of total household consumption exceeding 10 per cent (lower threshold) or 25 per cent (upper threshold) is considered catastrophic.
Household OOP health expenditure in 2020 was Tk 533 billion, which is 68.5 per cent of the total health expenditure.
Of this, 64.6 per cent or Tk 344 billion was spent at pharmacies or retail drug outlets.
Commenting on the report, Mr Maleque said the findings would help policymakers take proper action in future.
He, however, said the OOP would have decreased further if the government's expenditure on Covid-19 treatment was included in the accounting.
"The government spent billions of taka on Covid treatment ranging from diagnosis to vaccination," he said,
adding that this was not reflected in the report as it included pre-Covid data.
The minister, however, said there is a need for increasing budgetary allocation for the health sector and ensuring proper use of the amount.
"There is a need for enhancing skills and monitoring to ensure proper use of the limited resources," he added.
Mr Yousuf highlighted reducing avoidable expenditure by drug-makers for marketing their products so consumers do not bear the burden of additional expenses.
Mr Howlader said there is a need for ensuring ethical code of marketing by drug-makers to reduce the cost.
"Even, exceedingly lucrative packaging raises the cost of drugs," he said, adding that pharmaceutical companies pay a huge sum of money to entice doctors for prescribing their merchandise.