When Narendra Modi led BJP assumed office in May 2014, history was created on multiple fronts. Not only did the PM represent the quintessential common citizen of India, he also empathized with the financial and social challenges faced by Indians in their day-to-day lives. One such challenge faced across the spectrum is access to affordable healthcare and generic medicines.
A quick look around us will reveal that economically marginalized population of India is not in the best position to afford branded drugs. Hence a need for affordable generic drugs was felt. Against this backdrop, the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) was launched to counter high prices marked by the private pharmaceutical industry on generic drugs. While the scheme was ideated by the Congress-led UPA coalition as Jan Aushadhi Scheme (JAS), complete absence of political will and intent to execute the same stifled its growth.
Some of the reasons highlighted for complete failure of JAS include:
- Excessive dependence of State Governments for execution of the scheme
- Weak supply chain management
- Lack of support from healthcare community
- Low public awareness
Since 2014, the incumbent government initiated a slew of interventions, to turnaround the scheme and eventually ensures the target beneficiary is able to avail the scheme in its intended format. Areas of focus that were instrumental in fixing those gaps that existed in the previous scheme include increase in number of medicines eligible under the scheme, completing the composition of the therapeutic category, extending the supplier list to those certified under the WHO’s Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), and using railway stations as a point of sale to improve accessibility.
Increased coverage of beneficiaries
- As on March 2012, only 149 stores were functional which were reduced to 111 as on July 2015.
- After the Modi Government addressed the deficiencies in the scheme, by March 2018, 3,214 Kendra were operational across 33 States/Union Territories. As of January 2019, 4,635 Kendras are operating across India.
Expanded basket of products
- The scheme initially covered 361 medicines under JAS. Around 85 products covering only about 11 therapeutic groups were made available of which physical availability was even much less.
- The basket now covers all major therapeutic groups such as Analgesics, Antipyretics, Anti-allergies, Anti-infective, Anti-diabetic, Cardiovascular, Anti-cancers, Gastro-intestinal medicines, Diuretics, etc.
- As of January 2019, 1,084 essential medicines brought under Price Control regime
- Minister of State (Health and Family Welfare), Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey had stated that as of March 2019, he had received zero reports of shortage of prescribed generic drugs in New Delhi. Moreover, no reports related to gap between common drugs and their availability at Kendras was reported.
Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002
- Clause 1.5 of Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002, has been amended.
- It now stipulates that “Every physician should prescribe drugs with generic names legibly and preferably in capital letters and he/she shall ensure that there is a rational prescription and use of drugs”.
- Moreover, all physicians should prescribe drugs with Generic names
- Director, Central Government Health Scheme has issued instructions to all CGHS Wellness Centres to ensure that prescription is only by generic name wherever generic drugs are available
- State Medical Councils have been empowered to take disciplinary action against a doctor for violation of the provisions of the aforesaid Regulations
Supply Chain Management and Incentivize Vendors
- Government has appointed 55 distributors, 8 carrying & forwarding agents and 1 central warehouse.
- Trade margins of Kendra owners have been revised from 16%to 20% for retailers under the scheme.
- Incentives for Vendors: Kendra which are run by private entrepreneurs,pharmacists, NGOs and linked with BPPI’s software are eligible for an incentive up to Rs.2.5 lakh.
- Incentive is distributed as 15%of monthly sales, up to Rs. 10,000 per month
- For North Eastern states, Naxal affected and tribal areas, the ceiling is increased up to Rs.15,000 per month
Oxo-biodegradable Sanitary Napkin – under the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana
- It is observed that unhygienic aids cause fungal infections, cervical cancer and may also make women vulnerable to infertility.
- In June 2018, oxy-biodegradable sanitary napkins were included as a part of the Janaushadhi Suvidha to provide affordable and easy to use and dispose menstrual health to women across social strata.
- Cost of sanitary napkins in the market is Rs. 8 per pad. With the launch of the SUVIDHA napkins at Rs. 2.50 per pad will be available.
- Affordable sanitary napkins are now affordable at 3600 Kendras.
Like every government initiative, success of PMBJP is critically hinged on its successful implementation and regular monitoring. Availability of generic drugs, acceptability of the same to consumers and prescribers, affordable pricing and awareness of the scheme are critical for PMBJP to gain ground. By including entrepreneurs and reputed organizations as carry and forward partners, the scheme is not only creating additional jobs, it is reducing barriers to access. It is clear the Modi Government believes quality healthcare should not be a privilege, but a matter of fact for every Indian citizen.