There are more Jan Ausadhi stores in relatively affluent districts though they were set up to make medicines more affordable for the poor
The budgetary allocation by Government of India for health has remained between 1.2 and 1.6 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) for half a decade now.
Sixty per cent of all out-of-pocket expenses for the people was spent on health care. Medicines contribute more than 40 per cent to the total out-of-pocket expenditure.
A recently released report Medicines in India; its accessibility, affordability and quality by Brooking India assessed the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Pariyojana — the PM’s scheme for medicine for people.
The programme was launched by the central government in 2008 with a mandate to sell quality and affordable generic medicines. It was primarily meant for those areas where public health system lack facility.
The programme took a slow start: Only one store was opened in 2008. It kept struggling and there were less than 100 stores until 2014. The Centre rebranded the scheme in 2015 and tweaked some norms — profit margins on medicines were raised to 20 per cent from 16 per cent for retailers and to 10 per cent from 8 per cent for distributors.
The government also waived application fees for opening a store and the one-time financial grant from 1.5 lakhs to 2.5 lakhs.
The total number of Jan Aushadhi stores increased to 5,294 in 2019 from around 100 in 2014-15. According to the Bureau of Pharma Public Sector Undertakings of India (BPPI), generic medicines worth Rs 315 crore were sold in 2018-19 in those stores.
The study, however, found most Jan Aushadhi stores to be in more developed and urban districts than in rural ones.
The top quarter of districts in terms of urban population housed 15.45 such stores on an average. The bottom quarter, on the other hand, had only 3.98 stores per district on an average.
The report indicated that those districts where Jan Aushadhi stores are higher in numbers the population in those areas are higher in education level with much lower scheduled caste and scheduled tribe population proportions.
This implies that urban districts with affluent population have more Jan Aushadhi stores.
However, this trend works against the very purpose of the programme, which was to increase access to essential medicine to those who need it the most, particularly in rural districts of the country more dispersed and poorer population.
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