In a first-ever initiative to bring down prices of expensive cancer medication, the government plans to retail them through its ‘Jan Aushadhi’ stores, which offer essential ‘unbranded’ drugs at discounted rates. It has already initiated talks with domestic pharma companies to procure cancer drugs.
To start with, first-line cancer medicines may be sourced from major companies like Cipla, Sun Pharma and Dr Reddy’s, and offered at nearly half the price at ‘Jan Aushadhi’ stores to be set up at state hospitals where cancer is diagnosed and treated.
Old oncology drugs which are off-patent generally cost a few thousands, while the new patented cancer treatments may go up to Rs 20 lakh per patient per year.
In addition, the government is also in talks with Apollo Hospitals group to offer telemedicine for improving medical care in remote and inaccessible areas through a tie-up. The group has set up one of the most successful models for telemedicine in the country, and the government is keen to use its medical expertise in offering these services.
"For cancer, we have initiated talks with both state governments and drug companies. An approval from states for setting up these centres is required as these will be located in government hospitals where cancer treatment is offered. States will identify these hospitals, as well as demand for relevant cancer medicines at that place", a senior government official said, adding "only oral medication for cancer will be offered".
The government plans to take this up as a pilot project at one of the ‘Jan Aushadhi’ stores. The states will have the option to decide whether they want to offer these medicines only to below poverty line (BPL) families or the entire population. At present, ‘Jan Aushadhi’ stores stock 282 ‘unbranded’ medicines, targeting key therapeutic areas including anti-infectives; anti-allergics; pain-killers; antibiotics, gastro-intestinal and respiratory treatments, cardio-vascular drugs, vitamins and minerals — all sourced from pharma PSUs and offered at affordable prices.