People’s pharmacy: Not many are aware of Jan Aushadhi

Jan Aushadhi Kendra at Virugambakkam remains closed since several weeks.

Chennai: With the objective of making quality medicines available for the disadvantaged at an affordable price, the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana programme was launched in 2015-16. It was considered a revolution and one-of-its-kind when it was announced.

However, the website states that the Central government did not reach anywhere near the desired objectives as the Central public sector undertakings (India), entrusted with supplying the medicines, were not able to cope with the demand.

It is learnt that the CPSUs were able to cover only 130 medicines of the 319 medicines identified for availability at Jan Aushadhi Stores (JAS). Around 85 products covering only about 11 therapeutic groups were made available and physical availability was even less. In JAS, 700 drugs and 154 surgical items are said to be dispensed.

Though the initial plan was to open a pharmacy in every district of India, by 31 March 2012, only 157 stores were opened. But, currently, there are 33 pharmacies in Chennai and 400 in Tamilnadu.

In a study conducted by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), a Delhi-based autonomous organisation, in 2012, it has been stated that free medicines distribution schemes by the governments of Haryana, Rajasthan and Tamilnadu had affected the viability of JAS. So the question of who and how the Janaushadhi pharmacies would be used requires an answer.

The Tamilnadu Medical Services Corporation, through transparent process, procures drugs from manufacturers to dispense to patients free of cost in government hospitals.

The State Drugs Control Administration, in charge of licensing and inspecting JAS and the State body of Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) procures the medicines for the pharmacies.

Explaining the checks, a well-placed source from Tamilnadu Drugs Control Administration said, “We have 146 drug inspectors in the State who inspect 50 stores every month – retail, wholesale, hospital medical stores and JAS.”

He stated that there has not been any complaint filed with regard to the Jan Aushadhi Pharmacies in the city. A State representative from BPPI stated that there has been good awareness about JAS in Chennai.

“There has been tremendous response from the public for several medicines that are provided at subsidised cost. For instance, four biodegradable sanitary napkins are sold for Rs 10 and a Rs 1,000 worth glucometer is given for Rs 480,” added the State representative.

However, when ‘News Today‘ tried to contact the store in Virugambakkam, listed under ‘Functional’ category on the website, the calls went unanswered. A direct visit to the store during the working hours several times revealed that the shutters were down.

Nearby residents of the area stated they are unaware of the Central government pharmacy and it was learnt that the shop had been remained shut for several weeks.

Swaminathan, a resident of Alwarthirunagar in Virugambakkam, said, “Initially, we assumed it was just another store. However, a few days later, we saw a flex board that said the medicines are available at a subsidised cost. When a few neighbours visited the shop, they were informed that the tablets would arrive in two weeks, but we were given the same reason for over a month. No promotional material was distributed to create awareness about the Jan Aushadhi Kendra.”

The store in Choolaimedu has been functioning for a year now and has been selling medicines for conditions like diabetes, cholesterol and heart-related ailments.

G K Suresh, a resident of Bajanai Koil First Street, Choolaimedu, said, “Jan Aushadhi Kendra is a very good scheme initiated by the Prime Minister. Recently, a store was also opened in Gangai Amman Koil Street in our area. But not many people living here are aware of it. I use ‘Namo’ app and even then, I was not notified of this scheme. It’s good that the government at the Centre has launched such schemes but they should also make people aware of it.”

Benefits of Jan Aushadhi Kendra
Unit JAS price Average MRP of top 3 leading brands
Aceclofenac + Paracetamol (100 mg + 325 mg) Tablets 10 5.70 23.10
Aceclofenac 100 mg Tablets 10 3.84 32.50
Etoricoxilb 120mg Tab 10 33.96 131.58

Photo: R Thiyagarajan

(With inputs from Santhosh Mathevan and Aaditya Anand)

Bhavani Prabhakar