Govt’s cheap medicine scheme falls sick

Common medicines aren’t available at stores owing to lack of supply

Published: 24th June 2017 10:17 PM  |   Last Updated: 25th June 2017 08:12 AM   |  A+A-

A Jan Aushadhi store in Delhi

NEW DELHI: A lot is unwell in the Central government’s cheaper generic medicines scheme. Most medicines are not available at the government-run Jan Aushadhi stores, causing heartburn to people.
Most of the stores, set up under the Jan Aushadhi Scheme to provide non-branded generic medicines to all, haven’t stocked common medicines for months for lack of supply. These include medicines for seasonal infections, gas, cough, cold, etc. Officials said the shortage of medicines is due to logistical issues.

Officials of the Bureau of Pharma Public Sector (BPPS), the implementation agency of the Pradhanmantri Jan Aushadhi scheme, said that transportation has been outsourced to private contractors, and lack of monitoring at warehouses is one of the reasons for which necessary medicines are not being transported from warehouses to distributors and stores.

BPPS CEO Biplab Chatterjee said, “There was problem regarding availability of medicines in Jan Aushadhi stores earlier. This might be due to logistical issues. We have 589 products in warehouses, but these are not reaching stores. We are working on this.”
Some Jan Aushadhi shops sell branded medicines instead of generic ones. “People demand medicines, and if there’s no supply from the government, we procure them from outside,” said a Jan Aushadhi store owner.

Some Jan Aushadhi store owners suspect the role of private players behind shortage of medicines. “Some private companies don’t want government shops to sell generic medicines because it affects their business,” said a store owner. “Huge price difference between branded and generic medicines is the main reason for this. Nobody will buy branded drugs if generic medicines are available. Private companies have influenced the process and the government should look into this,” he said.
Chatterjee refuted this and said, “There might be some manipulation at the local level, but it’s not happening on a large scale.”

“There’s a lack of monitoring in warehouses. Nobody checks who is packing and sending which medicines. Many common medicines are stocked on upper racks in the warehouse, which is rarely accessed by staffers,” said a BPPS official.
A WhatsApp group of Jan Aushadhi store owners accessed by The Sunday Standard revealed similar woes across India. One chat said, “Supply in Tamil Nadu has reached its worst stage... supply has to be resolved seriously.” Another member of the group wanted the scheme’s head office to “take necessary steps to improve the supply chain. Increasing the number of stores will be of no use, if they don’t have sufficient medicines”.

Ghaziabad resident Kusumlata and her husband regularly need Pantoprazole Domperidone medicine for gas-related problems. “I heard about the government’s Jan Aushadhi store a few months ago, but couldn’t find the medicine at the nearby shop. Neither was an antibiotic for stomach infection,” she said.
The government has roped in the Railways to set up Jan Aushadhi stores at railway stations. The Department of Pharmaceuticals has also sought help from PSUs in the oil, steel, power sectors to open stores on their premises.

The Jan Aushadhi Scheme was launched in 2008 by the UPA government, but failed to kick off—only 150 stores were opened till 2014. It was revived in 2015 by the BJP government, which planned to open 3,000 such stores across the country. But the number of such stores is 1,700.

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