Most people are unaware of the existence of the stores.
New Delhi: India launched several schemes for the easy availability of generic medicines at medical stores. After the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Yojana was renamed as the “Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Janaushadhi Paryojana” (PMBJP) in 2016. In order to increase awareness among the people, the government took several steps such as the multi-pronged approach for raising awareness about the PMBJP with state governments and organising promotional workshops with doctors, business owners, and others. Nutraceuticals such as protein powder and malt-based meal supplements are being launched. Despite all these steps, several years after the launch, there is still a lack of awareness of this yojana or scheme among the people. At the same time, many stores are facing a shortage of medicines for some months now.
The Sunday Guardian went to a few Jan Aushadhi stores in Delhi to get a firsthand look at the situation. The majority of shopkeepers have complained about a lack of medicines in their stores, claiming that they are losing money and customers. Furthermore, if the drugs are unavailable, the majority of buyers returns or purchase medicines from other stores.
When this correspondent visited the Jan Aushadhi store near Ashram, the shopkeeper at the store stated that many underprivileged people are unaware of the scheme. The shopkeeper said, “Most of the people are unaware of the stores here. This scheme was launched for underprivileged people; however, most of our customers are from the middle class or upper-middle-class and they buy their medicines mostly from here.” He also stated that most of the underprivileged sections of the people end up buying medicines from private shops at a higher price. Also, many doctors and private clinics also give commissions to private medical shops to convince their customers to get the medicines from the shop itself. Several medicines such as Metformin 500, Rosuvas 10mg were unavailable at the shop.
Similarly, when this correspondent went to another Jan Aushadhi Kendra at Okhla Vihar, the shopkeeper again lamented that people are no aware of the scheme. He told this paper, “Though this store is five years old, people still don’t come here. You will find just 7-10 customers per day and that’s it! I have been engaging some of my people for advertisement, we also advertise ourselves in several health camps, but it has not had much impact. We have also distributed 4,000 T-shirts and pamphlets.”
Several shopkeepers have complained that many people have returned their medicines as they have been asked by the local doctors to do so. However, the shopkeepers have tried to explain that the same generic medicines could be used for treating their normal health issues like colds or headaches. The Jan Aushadhi Kendra near Okhla Vihar has not been receiving Metmorfin 1000mg for the past two months. Most of the sugar patients in the area keep on asking them for the same.
When this correspondent asked at the other Jan Asuhadi Kendra in Lajpat Nagar, about how they manage the shortage of medicines, she was told, “We sometimes give alternate generic medicine. Also, we try to arrange medicines from the other stores for the people. However, in rare cases, we have not been able to manage and have asked the person to get the medicine from somewhere else. However, many times, we place orders and get our medicines within 15 days.” However, this correspondent observed that several boxes of Metmorfin 1000mg were available at this store.
Some shopkeepers have also complained that they have heard that most of the manufacturing companies after getting their orders finished have difficulties in getting their tender issues. Therefore, most of the medicines don’t reach on time at the shops and the stores are left to face the difficulty. The Sunday Guardian also tried to seek response from the Health Ministry, but no proper response has been received till now.
Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) was established in November 2008 by the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Government of India, with the goal of providing affordable generic pharmaceuticals. Around 8,012 Jan Aushadhi Kendras were operational across the country at the beginning of August 2021.