Jan Aushadhi pharmacy in Dimapur under Nagaland Drug authority’s scanner

The PMBJP’s Jan Aushadhi pharmacy in the premises of the District Hospital, Dimapur as seen on July 1.

The PMBJP’s Jan Aushadhi pharmacy in the premises of the District Hospital, Dimapur as seen on July 1.

•    Meant for providing generic drugs under PMBJP
•    Evolved to selling branded drugs without licence

Imkong Walling
Dimapur | July 1

In April, this year, the district drug control authority, Dimapur, detected and flagged one pharmacy for allegedly operating without licence. It was no ordinary pharmacy, however. Located within the premises of the District Hospital, Dimapur (DHD), it happened to be the Jan Aushadhi Centre (pharmacy) operating under the aegis of the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) or the Prime Minister’s All-India Public Medicine Scheme.  

The key objective of the programme, erstwhile known as the Jan Aushadhi Scheme, was to provide medicines at affordable rates to all, through designated pharmacies in government hospitals. The Jan Aushadhi Centre at the District Hospital, Dimapur, was one such pharmacy, which was inaugurated in April 2019.

According to the Janaushadhi website, as on March 31, 2023, the product basket of the scheme contained some 1800 different drugs and 250 surgical items. 

As opposed to the regular pharmacies, where medicines are sold by brand name, Jan Aushadhi pharmacies are dedicated to cater medicines, by their generic (scientific) name, at discounted rates. The discounts range from 50 percent to as high as 90 percent of the rates offered by branded counterparts in the market. For instance, domperidone and rabeprazole, a combination drug, commonly prescribed for nausea and acid reflux, costs Rs 18 for a strip of 10 at Jan Aushadhi pharmacies. The drug’s branded counterparts costs as high as Rs 270-280 for a strip of 10. One 10 ml syringe with needle costs Rs 4.5. Check out the price list @ janaushadhi.gov.in/productlist.aspx.

Coming back to the story, the Hospital Management Committee of the DHD was alleged of operating a full-fledged pharmacy, selling branded drugs, without a valid licence since 2020, in the space originally allotted for the Jan Aushadhi Centre. As disclosed by official sources, it was confirmed during a check conducted by the district Drugs Control Cell on April 24. 

 A report about the detection was dispatched to the higher ups while recommending legal action under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act. Some 12-13 drug distributors in Dimapur were also summoned by the Drugs Control Cell in this connection. 

The state drugs Controlling and Licensing Authority took congnizance of the matter, subsequently directing the District Hospital authority, in May, to stop selling branded drugs and dispose the remaining stock. The letter, addressed to the DHD Medical Superintendent, pointed out that besides selling of drugs without licence from the appropriate authority, selling of medicine other than the ones covered by the PMBJP in the Jan Aushadhi pharmacy was violative of the guidelines.  It further directed the hospital authority to renew the licence for the Jan Aushadhi pharmacy which expired in 2020. 

During a follow up inspection on May 15, the same pharmacy was said to have been found operating in violation of the directive from the state drug Controlling and Licencing authority. The source, who did not wish to be named for fear of reprisal, revealed that the pharmacy was still operating as before despite the directive. As on July 1, it was found open during OPD hours. 

Functioning under the banner of the PMBJP, the source alleged that it began to sell branded drugs procured directly from the open market. “The intent and purpose of the Jan Aushadhi Centre was to provide generic medicine sponsored by the PMBJP, but it evolved into procuring and selling branded drugs at market rates,” he said. 

Ideally, pharmacies attached to hospitals are expected to open 24x7. But he said that the Jan Aushadhi pharmacy opened mostly during OPD hours and claimed witnessing, over the past year, an increased footfall of Medical Representatives at the district hospital OPD.

As per an order of the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, dated May 12, 2023, visits of Medical Representative to government hospitals premises are to be curtailed. It also reiterated a standing advisory for prescribing only generic medicines by doctors of government health establishments. 

He further noted a new development in the pharmacy since the directive came from the state drugs Controlling and Licencing authority. According to him, it began stocking up on generic medicines and put up a “5 % discount” sign, on all medicines, at the counter. The 5 percent discount was for branded drugs. 

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