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The Economic Times
9 February 2009

D. G. Shah, Secretary General, IPA
D. G. Shah, Secretary General, IPA*
The government has taken upon itself a very ambitious task of delivering drugs to weaker sections at special prices. This is a part of its overall programme of reaching modern healthcare to masses. It is a daunting task.

The programme will need a very large number of outlets and hundreds of product–packs in order to be effective and to create an impact on the healthcare costs of the people.

However, this magnitude of outlets–product mix serviced by a large number of vendors from across the country would require sophisticated tools for the demand forecast and inventory control by outlet to ensure an efficient service level. This is necessary to attract customers to these outlets and retain them.

It is, however, a moot point if the public sector enterprise and the civil society can achieve what is a nightmare for many private sector companies.

This complex business process may get further compounded by inability to get doctors to prescribe the medicines in their generic names. It may be easy for some commonly used medicines, but it would take a great deal of persuasion and effort to get them to write all prescriptions in the generic names.

As if these hurdles are not enough, the officials will have to address the issue of acceptance by the very people that they wish to serve. The cheap generic products, even among the illiterate people, are suspect for their quality, efficacy and safety.

Nevertheless, the private industry has offered to support the initiative by offering technical help to public sector units to produce these drugs. It would serve two purposes, help make PSUs viable by access to ready market and meet the needs of the weaker section of the society.

The private industry would like this project to succeed because once needs of weaker section are met; the current regime of the rigid cost–based price control and its further expansion as proposed in the National Pharmaceutical Policy 2006 may become irrelevant.

However, for the project to succeed and help lower healthcare cost to the people, the government would need committed people with professional expertise and experience, rapid expansion of the outlets to cover larger population, and credibility. Can we do this?

(*Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance)

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