New Delhi: India’s programme to set up stores selling generic drugs at a discount—launched in November—has been a laggard, with the government managing to open just 11 shops against a target of at least 45 by March.
“The delay has been on account of elections mostly. We don’t want to go too fast because we also have to see the uptake and make sure the supply line and logistics is continuous so that the stocking in the shops that are already open is complete,” an official at the department of pharmaceuticals said on condition of anonymity.
The Jan Aushadhi programme—an initiative of the ministry of chemicals and fertilizers, and implemented by its pharma department—aims at opening medicine shops across the country at government hospitals and other places that would either be state-run or operated by non-profit organizations. These outlets are expected to sell unbranded drugs at affordable prices.
The official said two stores in Rajasthan will start operating this month and the department plans to cover all districts in the state by July. “We will have five stores in Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Goa by July as well,” he added.
To boost the programme, the department is also providing financial support to non-governmental organizations recognized by state governments to open these shops.
“We will give them Rs2 lakh upfront payment for the infrastructure and setting up of the stores,” said the official. “We have sent a proposal in the form of a promotion of generic drugs scheme to the Planning Commission. If this proposal is approved, the funding will become easier.”
A part of the plan also involves participation of private firms, whereby they would supply the medicines at no-profit or nominal profit basis. “We have received interest via tender from several private players, but are yet to close the deals,” said another ministry official who also declined being named.
On 1 June, chemicals and fertilizers minister M.K. Azhagiri had said that medicines used by the common people will be provided throughout the country at affordable prices under the Jan Aushadhi programme.