The Government’s low-cost medicine shop or Jan Aushadhi generic drug stores, will be re-invented, said Mr Dilsher Singh Kalha, Secretary with the Department of Pharmaceuticals.

The mandate of the Jan Aushadhi (JA) stores would be increased to supplying more than just the 348-odd drugs mentioned in the National List of Essential Medicines, he said.

The low-cost venture had been started by the Government with the intention of getting generically similar versions of medicines to people at affordable prices.

But the project had not taken off as the Government had expected, for reasons including slow adoption by State governments.

There was too much reliance on the pharma public sector units to supply the medicines, and that too did not quite work.

The Government is in discussion with the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) for the supply chain, he said. The AIOCD is a pharma-trade body that represents over five lakh chemists across the country. Their network could be utilised by the Government to support the JA chain, another Ministry official explained.

There are about 113 stores in the country and the plan is to have 600 by the end of the year – one in every district, he said. By the end of the present Five-Year Plan (2012-17), the plan is to have about 3,000 such stores in the country, or five in every district.

Universal healthcare

The re-invention of JA comes even as the Centre plans a roll-out of free medicines under its universal healthcare scheme. There will not be a conflict between the two programmes, he said, as one provided free medicines and the other was low-cost medicines, and there was a requirement in both categories.

About Rs 27,000 crore has been earmarked for the universal healthcare programme that would be rolled-out later this year. However, Dr Srinath Reddy, President of the Public Health Foundation of India, pointed out that a framework needed to be put in place for the roll-out to work, as it had several facets including procurement and State participation.

Patented drugs pricing

On a separate issue, Mr Kalha said, the committee looking into the pricing of patented medicines would submit its report next month. The recently proposed drug policy, that recommended the control of prices on all 348 medicines in the NLEM, had not addressed pricing of patented drugs.

Medicines covered by product patents have a 20-year exclusive period, when prices are usually high to help recover the cost of research into developing the innovative medicine.

(This article was published on July 27, 2012)
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