Out of a total of 9,182 PM Bhartiya Janaushadhi (generic drugs) Kendra (PMBJK), there are only 359 in Bihar. Bihar had only 132 such Kendra in 2019 which increased to 161 in March 2020 and 222 in March 2021. As per the guidelines by the Union government, Bihar should have at least 534 outlets at least one in each revenue block. Even PMCH and Patna AIIMS do not have PMBJP outlets.
During the three financial years 2019-22 generic medicines worth only Rs 19.57 crores were sold in Bihar while the total sale in the country during the same period of time was Rs 4,61,306.31 crores. Thus the share of total outlets in Bihar is only 3.91% while the share of sales is only 0.0042%.
Even though the ‘Jan Aushadhi’ project of the Union Government to promote the selling of generic medicine was started in 2008, the first such in Bihar was opened in 2017-18 at IGIMS(Patna). In September 2015 the ‘Jan Aushadhi scheme’ was renamed as PMJAY (Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Yojna) and again as PMBJP in November 2016.
Why Not Generic?
The prime reason for the extremely low sales of generic medicine in Bihar is the reluctant attitudes of the medical community towards generic medicines. In February 2007 when the Bihar government made public hospitals mandatory to prescribe only generic medicines, the pharmaceutical industry opposed the decision of the Bihar government. Bihar was the first state to do so but unsuccessfully.
The lobby of doctors in Bihar is such strong historically that they even maintain their own private army. It was not a mere coincidence that when Bihar CM Jagannath Mishra brought an ordinance in the year 1983 to check corruption in the state special mention was made for doctors.
During the year 2012, not even a single quality test was conducted in Bihar by the drug controllers while it was only 169 in the year 2017. Jharkhand was the only major state in India that had a lower number of quality tests in the year.
In the year 2012, the film star Amir Khan asked Nitish Kumar to promote generic medicine in the state. Bihar government purchased generic medicine worth 132 crores in that year to sell but the result was not as expected. The out-of-pocket expenses on medical services in Bihar is more than 80% of the total medical expenses while the national average is less than 60%.
According to a report, medical expenses are the second most important reason for rural indebtedness in Bihar after dowry. A generic medicine is perhaps the solution to this problem because these medicines are 60 to 90 per cent cheaper than branded medicines while more than half of the out-of-pocket expanse on health consists of expanse on medicines.