The Jan Aushadi programme intends to supply around 300 drugs at nearly 50% of their MRP through retail shops set up for the purpose in all districts of India.
The ambitious Jan Aushadhi programme to ensure availability of medicines at low cost to the common man across the length and breadth of India is in crisis due to the short supply of drugs.
The chemicals and fertilizer ministry, under the government of India, which oversees the drug sector, was planning to supply unbranded generic versions of all essential medicines at a price about 50% less than they cost in the market through setting up a chain of round the clock retail outlets in all districts of the country.
The first of such Jan Aushadhi outlets was opened in Punjab in November 2008.
The drug supply programme was expected take off initially in the states of Delhi, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh on an experimental basis. Plans were also underway to set up these stores in the districts of Ludhiana, Mohali, Jallandhar and Bhatinda.
Other states like Haryana, Rajasthan, Bihar and Assam are also reportedly coming forward to set up Jan Aushadhi outlets.
Under the scheme, the government provides the space needed to set up the medicine outlet free of cost, apart form a credit facility for medicines for 45 days, to a non-governmental organisation that will be responsible to run the shop.
Unbranded versions of generic medicines (sold under the chemical name), including popular antibiotics, pain-killers, cough and cold medication were to be sold at these ‘Jan Aushadhi’ stores.
The medicine for these retail outlets were to be sourced from the public sector drug manufacturers including Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals, Hindustan Antibiotics, Rajasthan Drugs and Pharmaceuticals and Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals.
However,the public sector units were not unable to supply enough drugs required for the stores, leading to the shortage of medicines in most of the places.
Small-scale drug manufacturers in India, which initially welcomed the move, offering to supply medicines at 35 per cent of the cost of therapeutically equivalent branded medicines, is currently at loggerheads with the government.
The small-scale industry is finding a clause that allows companies with a turnover of at least Rs 35 crore to supply medicines for such stores as unacceptable.
They claim that even as they meet 40% of the medicines requirement of the country with low priced quality drugs, the government’s decision to not allow them is meaningless.
“The Rs 35 crore turnover clause is insignificant as we are already supplying a huge quantity of medicine in the market. The big pharmaceutical companies also outsource over 50% of their drugs to SMEs. If the government can allow such companies, there is no reason why it should not allow smaller ones,” SME Pharma Industries Confederation vice chairman Lalit Jain stated.
The government, however, stuck to the argument that such restrictions were important initially to keep fly-by-night operators at bay.
“It is important to ensure that the medicines available in these stores are quality medicines. Therefore, any company supplying medicines have to be good manufacturing practices (GMP) compliant and fulfil the eligibility criterion set by the department,” a ministry source was quoted as saying.
The 5000-odd small-time drug makers can, in fact, ensure success of the Jan Aushadhi initiative which is presently facing short supply of medicines, according to small scalers.
Several of India’s big and medium drug makers also showed interest to supply medicines to Jan Aushadhi. The department of pharmaceuticals (DoP) has received more than 75 applications from domestic drug makers such as Ranbaxy and Dr Reddy’s who are interested in supplying generic medicines at a lower price to the generic drug stores, reports said.
The government wanted to provide all 350 essential drugs through these stores at around 75% of the price of branded medicines available in the market through Jan Aushadhi stores.
The pharmaceutical department sources, however, claimed it was due to the elections the work setting up new shops has been affected temporarily, otherwise the Jan Aushadhi stores programme was very much on the track. The task of monitoring and maintaining the project has been entrusted with the bureau of public sector units.
Already around 30 generic stores have been set up in different parts of the country.