The Central government's ambitious project to set up generic drug stores (Jan Aushadhi Stores) in each district of the country to make quality medicines available at affordable prices has received tremendous response from the NGOs and other organisations.

The government had last month invited the interested parties like NGOs, charitable bodies, Red Cross, hospitals and other organisations to run the generic drug stores on not-for-profit basis in the breadth and length of the country.

"The response is good and we have received quite a good number of applications from the NGOs and other organisations expressing their interest in running the generic drug stores on not-for-profit basis," a senior official dealing the issue said. However, he did not say the exact number of applications received by the department as the process is still on.

At a time when the prices of medicines are increasingly becoming out of the reach of poorer sections of the society, the Jan Aushadhi Stores will prove to be a boon to them as by establishing these generic stores in each district, preferably in the premises of the district hospitals, the government wanted to ensure affordable medicines to the poor people. Once implemented according to the prices suggested by the government, the treatment cost is to come down drastically, as much as 93 per cent in some categories.

After some initial hiccups, the government has already launched the project on November 25 last year when it opened a Jan Aushadhi store at Amritsar in Punjab. The second store will be launched at Shastri Bhawan in Delhi on February 2 while the third store will be launched in Gurgaon on February 4.

Others in line are Mohali and Panchkula which will be opened on February 11. Apart from Punjab, several other states have also shown keen interest in the project and have approached the nodal agency IDPL to open the stores with a proposal to provide the required space in major government hospitals.

But the nodal agency has to find some credible organisations to run the stores on not-for-profit basis. In this regard, the government invited interested parties to come up for opening the store in different parts of the country. Under the project, the concerned state government will provide the required space, mostly in the premises of major hospitals, and the department of pharmaceuticals through its nodal agencies like IDPL will mantle the role of procurers of the generic medicines. Apart from public sector pharma undertakings like IDPL, the government will procure generic drugs from private companies for these stores.

Apart from providing space, the state governments will be asked to issue directions to the doctors in government hospitals to prescribe unbranded-generic medicines wherever these are made available as large number of people in the financially weaker sections cannot afford the branded products. The government has already identified over 300 drugs in 16 therapeutic areas to be sold through the planned generic stores, as the industry reacted positively to make the scheme a success.