Subsidized Medicine Goes out of Stock

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Nearly 5000 state subsidized medicine shops in the country are running short on medicines for life-threatening diseases.

Bengaluru, April 6, 2019.

State-subsidized medicine shops called ‘Jan Aushudhi’ centres are out of stock on a number of generic medicines. ‘Jan Aushudhi’ centres are built under Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya JanAushudhi Priyojana (PMBJP) scheme that aims at providing quality generic medicine for a much cheaper rate than branded medicines in regular pharmacies.

Bengaluru has 51 Jan Aushudhi centres. Seven of them are run by Indian Red Cross Society. Pradeep S., the owner of one of these shops on Mahakavi Kuvempu Road, says, “A lot of medicines remain out of stock for a long time. Medicines like Diabetone, Glimepiride, Metformin for diabetes are currently out of stock in my shop since a long time. Apart from this, medicines like Tazloc 40 mg and Indapamide that is used to treat Hypertension has also not been refilled since some time. This reason is that there is only one main body, responsible for manufacturing medicines and drugs for nearly 5000 shops in the country.”

Bureau of Pharma PSUs in India (BPPI) is the central body that is the sole manufacturer of generic drugs in the country. BPPI is a collection of Public Sector companies that manufacture the drugs on behalf of BPPI. Shivashankara, who works at the Indian Red Cross Society in Bengaluru, says, “The problem is that anyone can open a store under the Jan Aushudhi scheme. A few years ago there were only two to three stores, now there are nearly 5000 stores across the country. But the manufacturer is still BPPI alone, which cannot produce enough medicines to keep the stock in all these stores refilled. So ordinary people, especially from low-income groups suffer because these generic medicines are their only alternative to expensive branded medicine.”

According to the Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), “Generic medicines and vaccinations are copies of originally researched drugs, but at much lower prices. A few years post the launch of a new drug by a pharma company, the patent on it expires. That is when copies of the drugs are manufactured and sold by non-original makers at much cheaper rates. For example, aspirin and paracetamol are generic drugs that are often sold under brand names like Disprin and Crocin. The dosage, composition, method of intake, benefits, quality, and even side effects of generic medicines are similar to the brand-name version of the drugs.” It is in no way less effective than branded medicines.

Three years ago Union Minister Ananth Kumar declared that there will be 200 new Jan Aushudhi stores in Karnataka but with the status of the supply of important medicines might stand as a roadblock to the plan.

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