No takers for generic drugs, yet

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The Govt’s affordable drugs scheme for the poor is being blocked by a pharma-doctor nexus

By Manzoor-ul-Hassan

 The government’s flagship scheme, the Janaushadhi Pariyojana, which is aimed at reducing prices of drugs by up to 300 per cent through generic variants and a network of stores, has hit an air pocket. This is partly due to administrative lapses, opposition from drug mafia and cartelisation by pharma majors.

As per official sources, the financial irregularities at the Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI)—the agency responsible for its implementation—has primarily put the Janaushadhi scheme in doldrums. “The shortage of essential drug supplies at major Janaushadhi stores is a challenge faced by the generic medicine scheme,” an official privy to the external audit committee told Healthwire.

 He said the recent audit report has found that BPPI failed to maintain records of financial transactions and drug inventory at the stores. “Some documents sought by the auditors have also found many errors in the financial statements that got corrected during the course of the audit and vouchers,” the official said.

The pharma-doctor nexus run by some private pharmaceutical companies in connivance with doctors and government officials has also hampered the prestigious scheme, said BPPI officials. “There is a strong lobby of pharmaceutical companies and some doctors who are working against the implementation of the PMBJP in the country. And together they are building a dependency of the consumer at the service end. Otherwise the scheme is people friendly as it promotes use of low-cost generic drugs through Janaushadhi drug stores in different hospitals,” they said.

 Another official told Healthwire that the drug mafia had managed shutting down Janaushadhi stores in the past also with the support of corrupt officials in the Health and Medical Education (H&ME) Department on some compliance pretext or the other. “Private companies don’t want the scheme to become a success so they are trying to sabotage it,” he said.

 As per patients and attendants, the doctors are opposing the scheme as they want to please the pharma companies and drug mafia who give them freebies and share in the profit.

 The scheme, launched as the Jan Aushadhi Yojana by Manmohan Singh’s led UPA government, was relaunched by PM Narendra Modi to provide generic medicines at affordable prices through 5,000 Janaushadhi stores across the country.

BPPI General Manager Dheeraj Sharma admitted that convincing patients about their efficacy when doctors argue against generic drugs is a big challenge. “Janaushadhi stores will become popular only when people have confidence to consume our products. And doctors need to support us in bringing that confidence among patients and attendants. Unfortunately this is not happening. Instead many doctors have refused to treat patients who are using Janaushadhi drugs,” he said.

Sharma said there were more than 5000 Janaushadhi stores in India and BPPI will open another 2500 by 2020. “We need support of every stakeholder to make this scheme a success in India,” he said. We would say mass awareness campaigns by government hospitals would be the first step.

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