The Jan Aushadi scheme is aimed at providing healthcare to those for whom exorbitant cost of treatment at private hospitals is unaffordable
Everyone knows the rate of prescribed medicines available in the drug stores and hospitals. Many are so highly priced that they are out of reach of common man. It had become a kind of racket. It was to tackle this racket and to make generic medicines affordable to everyone that the ‘Prime Minister Jan Aushadi Pariyojana’ was started. Medicines available under the scheme include those that cure a common cold, fever and also those that treat diseases like cancer. There have been many instances when poor patients had to get discharged from hospitals untreated because they could not afford the highly priced medicines prescribed by the doctors. It is to such patients that generic medicines available under Jan Aushadi scheme are most beneficial.
The Jan Aushadi scheme is an initiative that took shape with the combined efforts of senior officers of the Department of Pharmaceuticals of the Centre, representatives of the pharma industry, NGOs, State Governments and even well-known doctors of prominent hospitals of the country. The aim of the project was to make generic medicines available at affordable prices without any
compromise on therapeutic value or the quality of the medicines. More than 500 medicines are available under the scheme.
The initiative is working not only towards making all medicines affordable to every section of the society but also to increase awareness about generic medicines among common people. The project also aims at educating doctors to prescribe generic medicines to patients.
What are Generic Drugs?
In simple terms, Generic drugs are those medicines that are unbranded but have the same therapeutic value. They are not special drugs but unbranded medicines that have generic names and available at a very low cost.
Pharmaceutical companies usually spend a lot of money on research of medicines. Post discovery too, the Pharma companies spend a lot on tests to ascertain their therapeutic value and effectiveness in dealing with diseases. The entire process will consume a lot of time too. The companies will have to recover these costs for further research and development. Hence they would have a patent on the drugs that they discover. No other companies can manufacture medicines with the same formula. But once the patent period is over, such medicines can be manufactured by any other companies too. These medicines will have to be manufactured under their generic names after obtaining due licenses and proving their therapeutic value. It is such drugs that are known as Generic medicines. Medicines that are available at Jan Aushadi outlets are these generic medicines.
Why do doctors not prescribe generic medicines to their patients? As a matter of fact, students of medicines are taught the generic names of medicines during their course. Despite this, doctors prescribe branded medicines. This is because doctors are made aware of new medicines that come to the market via medical representatives of pharmaceutical companies. The medical representatives naturally promote the medicines of their own companies. There are allegations that the pharmaceutical companies provide incentives or commissions to doctors to prescribe their medicines but this is not applicable to all the medical practitioners.
Quality of Generic Medicines
It is a common refrain to assume that anything that comes at a lower price is of an inferior quality. This is not at all the case with generic medicines. The most important constituents of both, generic and branded medicines, are the same. Their therapeutic values would be the same too. Elements such as colouring agents, fillers, flavours, which do not affect the therapeutic value of the medicine could be different. Hence generic medicines have the same effect and therapeutic value as that of branded medicines.
However, extensive tests regarding their effectiveness, quality and safety are done before they are made available under Jan Aushadi scheme. Medicines manufactured as generic medicines are subjected to rigorous tests at laboratories that are accredited to NABL (National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories) and then released in the market.
The BPPI (Bureau of Pharma PSU of India) has been established to monitor the scheme. The BPPI in partnership with the state governments enables the opening of Jan Aushadi outlets, monitor the outlets themselves, fixes the prices of the generic medicines and ensures their distribution.
One of the main aims of the BPPI is to open as many Jan Aushadi outlets as possible. The state governments have to provide suitable space/land near government hospitals for the Jan Aushadi outlets. Suitable space can be provided even at post offices, railway stations, panchayat offices, defence areas or at bus stations too. The procedure to open a Jan Aushadi outlet has been simplified so that any individual with a required qualification, an NGO or a trust can open an outlet. Even the application fee of Rs.2000 has been waived off to promote Jan Aushadi. The central government provides financial assistance to those who wish to open the outlets.
(The writer is a blogger and an author of the book ‘Osteosarcoma that changed my life’)