Jan Aushadhi Diwas celebrations heralded the Centre’s scheme to expand access to medicines – and included a high-profile speech from Prime Minister Modi, in which he extolled the benefits of the initiative.
Beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) include both the poor and middle-class, the Prime Minister claimed during a video conference speech. “We have reduced the prices of 850 medicines of common use,” Modi claimed, stating that the medicines were fifty to ninety percent cheaper than market rates. As a result, the Prime Minister said that lakhs of families had saved around Rs 1,000 crore (US$143 million) on the cost of medicines.
“At present, 5,050 Jan Aushadhi stores are open nationwide…[and] plans are underfoot to add 2,500 more kendras by 2020. The eventual aim is to have one Jan Aushadhi store for every block”
The Prime Minister’s speech was broadcast to 5,000 different locations, interacting both with scheme beneficiaries and proprietors of Jan Aushadhi Kendras, specialised stores which exclusively distribute generic medicines. At present, 5,050 Jan Aushadhi stores are open nationwide, across 652 districts. Plans are underfoot to add 2,500 kendras by 2020. The eventual aim is to have one Jan Aushadhi store for every block.
The Centre’s push to expand access to generic medicines has been palpable in recent weeks. Not only is the PMBJP being expanded at a rapid pace, the Centre is also aspiring towards making generics more attractive to consumers in normal pharmacies. Generic medicines will be colour-coded and bear symbols to differentiate them from branded products, to make them more attractive to consumers.
The efforts come off of the tail end of a number of government actions to increase use of generic medicines by Indians. One such proposal saw doctors legally obliged to offer a generic alternative to a branded medicine if one was available, writing down the name of the medication itself in lieu of the brand.
“The acceleration of efforts to expand access to healthcare by the Centre is likely to drive health to the forefront of public discourse before India goes to the polls this spring
The Prime Minister took the occasion of Jan Aushadhi Diwas to celebrate the Centre’s other achievements in the healthcare sector. He touted the erection of fifteen All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and the creation of 31,000 medical education seats, covering both MBBS and postgraduate seats, to increase the number of medical trainees in a bid to cure the understaffing woes of India’s health infrastructure.
Ahead of this year’s polls, the acceleration of efforts to expand access to healthcare by the Centre is likely to drive health to the forefront of public discourse before India goes to the polls this spring. Lending national prominence to health issues through observances such as Jan Aushadhi Diwas serves to highlight the efforts of the Centre to make its achievements in healthcare known. As the Prime Minister stated, the Centre has a vision for healthcare: “No silos, only solutions.” When the election comes around, the verdict will come on how this vision is perceived by the Indian electorate.