How PM Narendra Modi put new life in an ailing UPA scheme
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a new lease of life to a sickly scheme from the second term of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government.
Few had heard of Jan Aushadhi Scheme before September 2015, when the Modi-led government renamed it first as Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Yojana. It was renamed again in November 2016 as Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP). The UPA II scheme, which aims to provide quality generic medicines at affordable prices in place of branded medicines, not only got a new name but also a big push.
The scheme has drastically brought down medicine prices. For example, anti-diabetic drug glimepiride is priced at Rs 4.02 under the government scheme while it costs Rs 54 in market.
The Jan Aushadi Scheme saw only 80 stores till March 31, 2014. Under the NDA rule, the number of Jan Aushadhi Kendras have jumped manifold. As per latest data, 2,747 Jan Aushadhi Kendras are operational across the country. Though short of the target to open 3,000 stores by March 2017, it is still a big leap compared to the growth during the previous government.
How Modi turned the scheme around
Medicines: From 2014 to 2017, 636 medicines and 132 surgical/consumable items have been brought under the scheme as compared to nearly 100 from 2008 to 2014 under the UPA II government. These drugs are for acute as well as chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer and asthma.
Therapeutic basket: The therapeutic category basket of the scheme was incomplete earlier. Now the basket covers all 23 major therapeutic categories such as anti-infective, anti-diabetics, cardiovascular, anti-cancer and gastro-intestinal.
Suppliers: Till 2014, only PSUs had been assigned to make and supply drugs. But now 125 suppliers, certified under the WHO's Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), are also part of the scheme.
Quality control: Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) tests the medicines procured from the suppliers for its quality. "Each batch of each drug is tested at BPPI’s empanelled National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) accredited laboratories in order to ensure quality, safety and efficacy of medicines and conformation with required standards," said the BPPI.
Turnover: The annual turnover of PMBJP has also increased to Rs 73.66 crore in 2017-18 (as on October 30, 2017) from Rs 33.4 crore in 2016-17 and Rs 12.43 crore in 2015-16.
Incentives and margins: The government has increased the incentive to start a store to Rs 2.5 lakh from Rs 1.5 lakh. The government has also increased the margins from 16% to 20% for retailers and from 8% to 10% for distributors.
Accessibility: Indian Railways has been roped in for making cheaper medicines more accessible to people. It plans to open Jan Aushadhi Kendras at 1,000 railways stations. Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan announced in August this year that government would open Jan Aushadhi stores at PSU-run petrol pumps too.
The Modi government has been making concerted efforts to put essential and critical medicines within the reach of the masses. It put a cap on prices of stent and knee implants after they were lowered by more than 50 per cent. In April this year, Modi promised a legal framework to ensure that doctors prescribed low-cost generic medicines instead of expensive branded medicines. The new law will hit hard at the nexus of doctors and pharma companies.