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Patrons of Jan Aushadhi ill at ease

Rashmi Pratap Mumbai | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on February 01, 2017

A Jan Aushadhi medical store in Mumbai   -  PAUL NORONHA

Inadequate supply of medicines, lack of awareness hurt Central drug scheme

In a quaint corner in Navi Mumbai’s Nerul area, NGO Anandi Seva Kendra sells generic medicines at up to 70 per cent less than the prices of similar branded medicines. Its drug store, Jan Aushadhi Kendra, was started about eight months back after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced the opening of 3,000 such centres in the Budget last year.

Rajendra Shelar, the centre’s president, was certain that the highly affordable medicines will sell like hot cakes. But his hopes have dashed, as he struggles with losses due to poor medicine supply chain combined with a lack of awareness about the scheme.

With daily sales of less than ₹1,000 per day, Shelar is not able to meet even operating expenses like electricity and the pharmacist’s salary.

Miles away, in Telangana’s Ranga Reddy district, Jan Aushadhi Store owner S Raju too is saddled with losses, which have been compounded by the presence of a Patanjali medicine store next door. “Nearly 99 per cent people don’t know about the scheme in the absence of any promotion about it,” says Raju, who has tried distributing pamphlets to create awareness but to no use. He is now planning to move into a new and bigger store — his last attempt to make things work.

While the government has opened 645 Jan Aushadhi stores so far, according to the list on its website, it has not yet got the supply chain right. Currently, the Bureau of Pharma Public Sector Undertakings of India (BPPI) cocoordinates procurement, supply and marketing of generic drugs. Each State has one distributor who supplies them to the stores. The store owner gets a commission varying from 15 to 20 per cent for various medicines.

Raju says the supply of medicines for diabetes and blood pressure, which are the most in demand, is extremely poor. “A customer filed a complaint against us for not stocking the medicine she required even though the fault lies with the supply chain,” he says, adding that minimum daily sales of ₹10,000 are necessary for the store to make any profit.

But in the Mumbai suburb of Borivali, Vijay Bhailal Gosar is happy to have opened the Jan Aushadhi store last year. He has plugged some of the loopholes by creating awareness through social media and putting up banners at key places like police stations and blood donation camps. “We get medicine (from the supplier) twice a week. We call up every two hours to ensure that he dispatches the medicine within two days after placing the order,” he says laughing.

With a Twitter handle, Facebook page and a senior citizens WhatsApp group of over 5,000 locals, Gosar has ensured that his store does not go unnoticed.

Mahendra Bhavsar, a real estate agent who is a regular at Gosar’s store, says the medicine for diabetes, which costs around ₹70 for a strip of 10 tablets, is available at ₹14-15 at Jan Aushadhi centres. “It is a huge saving, especially for health conditions like BP and diabetes, which require lifelong medicines,” he says.

Amrendra Kumar in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur is also selling medicines worth about ₹3,000 per day.

Kumar too does not face any supply issues, possibly because there are just four Jan Aushadhi stores in Bihar at present. Once the numbers in the state become large, he may also have to wait for 15 days to get medicines.

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Published on February 01, 2017
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