Plans are afoot to open Jan Aushadhi stores at around 1,000 major railway stations across India as part of drive to make quality medicines available at low cost to the public, government said today. Plans are also on to open such outlets at bus stands in different states with an aim to take the network to small towns and villages. Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister Ananth Kumar said efforts are being made to ensure prescription of generic medicines by doctors for the benefit of patients.
“I am going to speak to Railways Minister Suresh Prahbu in the coming days to open Jan Aushadhi stores (JAS) in 1,000 main railway stations in the country,” Kumar told reporters here. He further said that in order to make affordable medicines to poor people in smaller towns and villages, his ministry is looking at setting up JAS at bus stops.
“I am going to write to the state chief ministers and later speak to them to open JAS wherever there is a bus stand,” the minister added. He said under the BJP-led government, the number of JAS has been increased to over 1,320 from 88 set up during the previous UPA regime. “By the end of this year, we will have at least 3,000 JAS across India. The turnover of JAS will also touch Rs 60 crore, up from Rs 3 crore,” Kumar said.
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In order to ensure that good quality medicines are available at JAS, the minister said only those companies which comply with WHO certified good manufacturing practices will be eligible for supplies. “Out of 10,000 pharmaceutical companies in India, only 1,400 are WHO GMP certified and only they will be able to participate in tender process,” Kumar added.
The government is also encouraging the youth to participate in opening of JAS, he said, adding that already 30,000 applications have been received which are under process for approval. “The aim is to take JAS to every block level of the country,” he said. Besides expanding the JAS network, the minister said, the government has also expanded the basket of medicines available in the stores.
“Today 23 therapeutic areas are covered with 500 medicines and 150 health supplements in JAS,” Kumar said, adding that the focus is on drugs for major diseases such as heart ailments, diabetes, respiratory problems, HIV and blood pressure. When asked about making prescription of generic medicines by doctors mandatory, he said the Medical Council of India has already issued a circular to doctors.
While the health ministry has also asked central government hospitals to make prescription of generic drugs mandatory. All the state governments have also been sent advisories regarding the same, he added.
On whether the government is bringing a legal framework for compulsory prescription of generic medicines, Kumar said at present the Drugs & Cosmetics Act prevents pharmacies to give equivalent of generic medicine and whatever is prescribe has to be given. “A substitute cannot be given therefore we are going to bring in amendments in the Drugs & Cosmetics Act,” he said. The minister said however that the government has no intention of banning branded drugs in the country saying there is also a need to encourage drug development and make business of pharmaceutical firms viable.
“Otherwise, we will become what we have in bulk drugs where we are a net importer, that too from only one source (China),” Kumar said.