Srinagar: The Pradhan Mantri Janaushadhi Pariyojana, a Government of India scheme to open affordable drug stores for poor patients, is facing strong opposition from the influential nexus of doctors and pharmaceutical companies in Jammu and Kashmir.
According to official sources, the pharma-doctor nexus, run by some private pharmaceutical companies in connivance with doctors and government officials, has consistently hampered the Pradhan Mantri Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP).
“There has been a strong lobby working against the implementation of the PMBJP, which promotes use of low-cost generic drugs through Jan Aushadhi drug stores in different hospitals,” they said.
An official at Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar told Kashmir Reader that the drug mafia has managed to shut down fair-price medicine shops and Jan Aushadhi stores with the support of corrupt officials in the Health and Medical Education (H&ME) department.
“Now they are trying to sabotage the scheme again, as private pharmaceutical companies don’t want their lucrative business to suffer,” the official said.
He said the mafia has already forced closure of three fair-price shops in GMC’s associated hospitals, including SMHS Hospital and GB Pant Hospital.
“The proposal to open more shops was also opposed by a group of doctors, who cited some reports of lack of efficacy in generic drugs,” the official claimed.
As per patients and their attendants, doctors are opposing the scheme to please pharma companies and the drug mafia who give them freebies and shares in profit.
The absence of drug stores in hospitals is giving a tough time to attendants and putting patients at risk, they said.
“We are facing huge inconvenience in the absence of Jan Aushadhi stores that sell low-cost medicines,” said Hakeem Rouf, attendant of a patient at SMHS Hospital.
Another attendant, Arif Rasool, said he was forced to travel to Dalgate and Gogji Bagh to buy affordable medicines for his daughter, who is undergoing treatment at GB Pant hospital.
Earlier, the JADS project of the H&ME department was assigned to the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) for opening fair-price shops in a phased manner. In the first phase, six fair-price shops were taken up in the state, two each in Kashmir and Jammu, one each in Leh and Kargil. However, these shops were shut as these would always run out of stock.
Sources told Kashmir Reader that some doctors were not in favour of opening fair-price shops and had created a negative perception about them.
However, doctors alleged that these stores had failed to attract people because they were not stocked adequately and people were forced to return empty-handed.
“People feel that it is pointless to go to these stores because most of the medicines are unavailable,” said a doctor at SMHS Hospital.
The Union Health Ministry on many occasions has asked the state government to direct hospitals to popularise generic drugs through JADS. “It was to abolish the current system of drug procurement and shift to generic medicine,” said a source.
But, sources said, the state government did not heed the repeated reminders from the ministry.
Nodal Officer for PMBJP in J&K, Rifat Nazir, admitted that the scheme had failed so far. However, she said, the doctor-pharma nexus will not impact the scheme now.
“Government of India and Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India has changed the plan of its implementation. They have decided to issue approval to private players rather than to NGOs and government hospitals only,” she said.
She said at present there are 55 Jan Aushadhi stores running in Jammu and Kashmir.
“We will cross 100 stores till June this year because there is huge demand from the public now. It will automatically put every opposition to rest,” she said.