Nagaland government approves a pharmacy scheme overlapping PMBJP

Critics sceptical of the purported logic of the initiative

Imkong Walling 
Dimapur | July 2

In a previous and related story, the spotlight was on the Jan Aushadhi Centre (pharmacy), at the District Hospital, Dimapur, operating without licence. The pharmacy, supported by the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) or the Prime Minister’s All-India Public Medicine Scheme, was flagged by the Nagaland drugs Controlling & Licencing authority, earlier in May, this year, for allegedly selling branded drugs, without a valid licence, in the space originally allotted for the Jan Aushadhi Centre. The state drug authority subsequently directed it to stop catering branded drugs. However, as per official sources, it did not heed the directive. 

While the issue remained pending, there was a related development at the policy level. It came in the form of the state government approving a parallel pharmacy in all the government hospitals overlapping the existing Jan Aushadhi Centres. The approval was notified by the Directorate of Health & Family Welfare (H&FW) on June 16, citing a June 5 “government approval letter,” for rolling out a project to set up 24x7 in-house pharmacies under the branding— Citizen's Welfare Pharmacy. As per the existing plan, it will be rolled out in a phased manner starting with the District Hospitals and gradually to the other government health establishments. 

The June 5 approval letter was conveyed by the Joint Secretary, H&FW. It envisions selling medicines, not available in the Jan Aushadhi Centre, at rates below the Maximum Retail Price. 

The Notification said that the objective was to mitigate “non-availability of emergency medicines” in public hospitals and helping patients “buy essential and emergency medicines at a cheaper price.” It specified that the proposed Citizen’s pharmacy will be managed by the Health Centre Management Committee (HCMC)/Hospital Management Society (HMS) and be subject to government audit, including CAG.

It added, “Any profit earned will be utilized for development of the hospital as per the guideline as laid down by the Government…”

However, people in the state Health set up were sceptical of the purported logic of the initiative. One said that the proposed Citizen’s pharmacy would be counterproductive as it conflicts with the Jan Aushadhi Scheme. “If we issue drug licence to all government hospitals, it will be a blunder. It is like a death sentence to the Jan Aushadhi Scheme in Nagaland,” the medical professional said on condition of anonymity.  

Instead of implementing an overlapping pharmacy scheme, he held that the government should focus on strengthening the PMBJP in Nagaland by ensuring the availability of all the medicines covered by the Centrally-sponsored project.

He said that there was no need for a state government pharmacy when there was a nation-wide programme already, providing generic drugs and medical consumables at highly subsidised rates.    

A second doctor echoed a similar view.  “Why should we kill the PMBJP (Jan Aushadhi Scheme) to open a pharmacy for profit?” he posed, while stating that it would be illogical to have an overlapping scheme. 

According to him, the medicines sold at the Jan Aushadhi Centres are proven to be equally effective as branded drugs.

“Only thing is that it reduces the kickbacks from pharmaceuticals promoting their brands,” he said, also on condition of anonymity. While stating that it was absurd to have an overlapping scheme, he posed, “Why should we kill the PMBJP (Jan Aushadhi Scheme) to open a pharmacy for profit?”

As per the existing PMBJP rate, common antibiotics like amoxicillin, cefuroxime axetil and azithromycin costs Rs 56, Rs 142 and Rs 42, respectively, per strip of 10s. A povidone iodine ointment costs Rs 15.4. Baby diapers cost Rs 30 per pack of 5s, while sanitary napkins range from Rs 1 to Rs 3.75 apiece. 

Meanwhile, the June 16 Notification was still to be publicly announced and reportedly only circulating within the medical circles. 

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