The Centre’s flagship access to medicines scheme may be a boon for patients. However, it is also stoking fears among Indian pharma.
Forecasts estimate that drugmakers could see twenty percent of their sales disrupted by the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Pari Yojana Kendra (PMBJPK), a health ministry campaign to make medicines more affordable for consumers. While the scheme is regarded as a positive force for the generics industry in India, revenue from sales of branded medications could take a hit according to analysts.
Under PMBJPK, generic medicines are sold through dedicated Jan Aushadhi kendras. The Bureau of Pharma Public Sector Undertakings of India (BPPI), a special outfit under the purview of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, collaborates with central public sector undertakings (CPSUs) in the pharma sector to facilitate procurement and supply of generic medications.
The Centre’s push to promote generics has sparked alarm among the pharma sector in India. A report by Edelweiss estimates that Rs 6,000 crore (US$874 million) of generic medicines provided through the BPPI could adversely affect Rs 25,000-35,000 crore (US$3.6-5 billion) worth of sales of branded medicines. This is if one assumes a fivefold price differential between generics and their on-brand counterparts.
The Centre has undertaken multiple efforts in recent months to promote generic medicines. Notably, Jan Aushadhi Diwas was commemorated on March 7th to promote the initiative. Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the occasion to extol the benefits of the initiative to poor and middle-class Indians, for whom he said the scheme had reduced the costs of 850 medicines. This had resulted in lakhs of families making savings of Rs 1,000 crore (US$143 million) on the costs of medicines, he said.
There are currently 5,050 Jan Aushadhi kendras operational nationwide, spanning 652 district. The Centre plans to upscale this significantly. The aim is to add 2,500 more kendras by 2020, to realise the objective of having one Jan Aushadhi store for every block.
Plans for expansion could come as a relief for economically vulnerable families, for whom the accessibility of medicines is often hampered by a lack of affordability. However, the planned expansion of the PMBJPK is unlikely to allay any concerns among the pharma sector in India – potentially entailing a bigger hit in coming years.