Ailing cheap drugstores in need of booster dose

Too many Jan Aushadhi outlets mushroom in a short period; distributors unable to meet growing demand

Published: 18th November 2017 11:21 PM  |   Last Updated: 19th November 2017 02:53 PM   |  A+A-

A Jan Aushadhi store outside the RML hospital in New Delhi

NEW DELHI: The Jan Aushadhi scheme, rechristened and relaunched by the Modi regime in September 2015 to provide medicines at cheaper rates to the common people, has not quite worked to plan in two years. There is heartburn among the people because most medicines are not available at the stores. There is dissatisfaction among store owners because lack of supply has been hitting business.

Most stores, set up to provide non-branded generic medicines, have not had adequate stocks of common medicines -- for seasonal infections, cough, cold, gas etc -- for months. Store owners have claimed that only 150-200 medicines are supplied whereas the government has listed over 600 medicines for sale.

What’s causing the problem?

It’s largely a case of too many stores and too little supply, said Biplab Chatterjee, CEO of Bureau of Pharma Public Sector, the implementation agency of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Yojana.
Acknowledging that there were some issues because of which medicines were not reaching stores, he said: “It is a transition phase for the scheme, which has done very well in the last two years. We have opened about 2,800 stores across the country. The problem is more because of the sudden rise in number of stores and demand.”

Chatterjee said the main issue was at the distribution level. “Jan Aushadhi stores are scattered across states. We have appointed distributors and they are typically from a pharmaceutical background. We have realised that the density of stores around a distributor should be less. Distributors are just not able to supply medicines to the stores on time,” he said.

Pressure from pharma lobby

Many store owners have alleged that the bureau has been working under pressure from big pharmaceutical companies, but Chatterjee trashed the charge. “It may be their perception but there is no truth in this. There is open tendering process through which companies are selected for manufacturing medicines. We have a system of quality monitoring where samples are lifted regularly for quality check,” he said.

Some have also alleged that the department has been indirectly helping private pharmaceutical companies because people would have to turn to private shops for branded medicines in case of non-availability of generic medicines at Jan Aushadhi stores. The huge price difference between branded and generic medicines is the main reason behind this allegation. Store owners claim nobody will buy branded drugs if generic medicines are available.

What steps are being taken?

Chatterjee said the Bureau of Pharma Public Sector was changing the supply chain and developing a new software to simplify supply procedures. “We are changing the supply chain. Through the new software, we will directly reach out to the stores. Warehouses will be directly connected to the stores and orders will be generated automatically,” he explained.

The CEO said achieving the target of opening 3,000 stores across the country and making all medicines available at all stores were his top priorities. The situation would improve in the next two months, he said.

“I feel very sad when I hear that medicines are not reaching stores. Both the store owners and the common people will not have any issues with the availability of generic medicines in the next two months,” he said.

The Jan Aushadhi scheme was originally launched in 2008 by the UPA government but failed to take off in a big way. Only 150 stores were set up till 2014. The scheme was revived in 2015 by the BJP government, with plans to open 3,000 stores across the country.

2,747 - Total number of Jan Aushadhi stores across India
37 - Number of stores in Delhi (two yet to be operationalised) States/UTs with no Jan Aushadhi stores: 3 (Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Goa and Lakshadweep)
422- The highest number of stores in a state (Uttar Pradesh)
630- Number of drugs listed for sale


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