Generic medicine stores reel under supply crunch


Face shutdowns as central bureau unable to tackle demand

The State’s efforts to make affordable medicines available to more people by expanding thousands of subsidised drug stores are endangered, thanks to the abrupt departure of the State-appointed distributor for the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Yojna (PMBJAY) in October last year.

This has created a bottleneck at the central warehouse catering to 3,041 Jan Aushadhi Kendras in the country, including over 200 stores in Maharashtra and 24 in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

Nearly a decade after the scheme was launched with much fanfare in 2008, most stores face the spectre of shutting down because of errant supply. Pharmacists said that doctors, too, have added to the chaos by not prescribing generic medication despite the guidelines of the Indian Medical Council.

Most stores in Mumbai are struggling to cope with the persistent shortage of drugs and are incurring losses on a daily basis. The central warehouse controlled by the Bureau of Pharma Public Sector Undertakings of India (BPPI) is still structuring its supply chain. Until then, the supply mechanism will continue to suffer from teething troubles, BPPI officials said.

Store owners complain that the warehouse does not handle orders diligently. “We place orders through a software, but there has not been a single instance when we have received the full stock,” said Hakim Kapasi, who started a Jan Aushadhi Kendra in August 2017 in Marol. It has become difficult to sustain the shop, with the burden of salaries of two pharmacists, one helper and the rent, he said.

Pharmacist Pawan Dorle, who runs a Jan Aushadhi Kendra in Rajarampuri, Kolhapur, said product availability has been a huge concern. “Many of the generic molecules are available in the form of different tablets. For example, a medication for cardiac patients called Ecosprin Gold 10 marketed by USV Ltd. is a combination of three molecules: atorvastatin, aspirin and clopidogrel. But in the generic form, each molecule is available in the form of a different tablet. I cannot just sell one or two molecules and ignore the third one due to unavailability,” said Mr. Dorle.

The ultimate impact is borne by the end user: the patient. Andheri resident Iftakar Ahmed, who switched over to generic medication for his wife a month ago, has made several rounds to Jan Aushadhi Kendras in Mumbai in the past one week. “None of them have all the medication that I require,” said Mr. Ahmed, a driver. His wife’s monthly supply of drugs would cost him ₹2,000. “The generic versions cost me merely ₹400,” he said.

Generic drugs are marketed with the name of the chemical it contains, and not the brand name. Hence, even though they contain the same dosage, quality and efficacy, they are 50-70% cheaper than branded drugs.

BPPI CEO Biplab Chatterjee said the scheme has been rolled out on a large scale over the past two years, but is only now moving on to direct supply in Maharashtra, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and a few other places in a phased manner. “Since the system is new, there are some teething troubles,” said Mr. Chatterjee. He said the bureau is following the end-to-end supply model, like Amazon and Flipkart.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 10:05:23 AM |

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