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PMBJKs sold medicines worth approximately Rs 135 crore in March, April and May 2020

The Bureau of Pharmaceutical Public Sector Unit of India (BPPI) has sold six lakh pieces of masks, 50 lakh HCQ tablets, 1.50 crore paracetamol tablets and nine lakh azithromycin tablets in the months of March, April and May, 2020. Envisioning the current market demand, it has also placed purchase orders for procurement of these medicines to ensure stock availability for the next six months, reveals Sachin Singh, CEO, BPPI, in an exclusive interview with Akanki Sharma

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Share a brief background about Swasth ke Sipahi. How did it come up?

In order to stop the spreading of coronavirus during initial days, the Government of India (GOI) had imposed a lockdown of 21 days from March 25 to April 14, 2020, across the country. During this period, a pharmacist from one of our Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana Kendra (PMBJK) situated at Pahadiya, Varanasi shared an incident that took place with him during the last week of March amidst the lockdown. According to him, an elderly woman, who lives with her husband only, had exhausted the stock of her daily medicines. However, consuming the medicines regularly was critical to maintaining her bodily functions. The pharmacist, thus, could not stop himself from helping the couple. He collected the medicines and set out to deliver the same at her house. Since then, our pharmacist has been delivering medicines to the sick and elderly at their doorsteps. Later, some of the beneficiaries of PMBJP, during this odd situation, gave the name ‘Swasth Ke Sipahi’ to our pharmacists.

Currently, how many Swasth ke Sipahis are active across the country and how many people have been able to get medicines because of them? Kindly name a few PMBJKs where this is being done.

Following the lockdown measures in place, over 6,300 PMBJKs are functioning across the nation, covering 726 districts of the country. All these kendras are playing a key role in ensuring the availability of essential medicines to the needy and the pharmacists delivered those at people’s doorstep as well. Now, the situation is normal and all our Jan Aushadhi Kendras (JAKs) are functioning and extending their services to the nation.

Many of the JAKs from various states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Madhya Pradesh have delivered the medicines to the patients and needy in their areas.  Aparna Kapooria (Tarani Foundation), PMBJK, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh; Nishant Malviya, PMBJK, Mirzapur; A Kailashnath, PMBJK, Hyderabad, Telangana; Akhilesh Chowksey, PMBJK, Durg, Chhattisgarh; Sourabh Sharma, PMBJK, Jammu; Dr Anand Yadav, PMBJK, Dehradun and Dr Sanjeev Sharma, PMBJK, Ludhiana, among many more, played the role of Swasth ke Sipahi for delivering medicines at people’s doorsteps during the lockdown period.

What is the general pattern of diseases for which people are buying medicines the most?

People are buying drugs for diabetes, blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, along with analgesics, antipyretics, antiallergic, OTC products, surgical instruments, etc. Around 30 major therapeutic groups have been covered in the basket of PMBJP medicines.

In view of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, what precautionary measures have been taken to ensure the protection of Swasth ke Sipahis and prevent the spread of coronavirus infection? Have you issued any instructions/guidelines that they need to abide by while collecting and distributing medicines?

Time to time, we have issued precautionary directions from our head office to all JAKs, distributors and other stakeholders to prevent the spreading of coronavirus infection. We have also advised them to follow the directions of the state authorities and local administrations. Further, they are also following the government’s instructions on practising social distancing.

Similarly, any precautions at your warehouses?

The Bureau of Pharmaceutical Public sector unit of India (BPPI) is ensuring the dispatch of medicines to all the JAKs from its modern IT-enabled warehouses at Gurugram, Chennai and Guwahati. These warehouses were functioning during the odd situation only with 50 per cent of the total staff while practising social distancing.

Were there any demands from the hospitals for face masks, hand sanitisers, hydroxychloroquine, paracetamol, and azithromycin? If yes, kindly tell which hospitals were these and the quantities in which these products have been supplied?

BPPI has adequate stock of the medicines/medical equipment that is currently under demand viz. face mask, hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), paracetamol and azithromycin at all our JAKs. It has sold six lakh pieces of masks, 50 lakh HCQ tablets, 1.50 crore paracetamol tablets and nine lakh azithromycin tablets in the months of March, April and May 2020.

In addition, an order for 60 lakh HCQ tablets has also been placed. Envisioning the current market demand, BPPI has also placed purchase orders for procurement of these medicines so as to have enough stock for the next six months.

What steps are you taking to ensure the timely availability of medicines even amidst the coronavirus crisis?

BPPI is ensuring the dispatch of medicines from its modern IT-enabled warehouses at Gurugram, Chennai and Guwahati within 48 hours of receipt of a purchase order from PMBJK. The delivery time of the consignment after dispatch is a maximum of 10 days. However, during the initial lockdown days, the supply chain of Jan Aushadhi medicines was disturbed as only limited courier services were functional. Apart from it, the limited availability of vehicles and manpower added to our problems. However, all such issues have now got streamlined with cumulative efforts of the Government and various stakeholders as –

  • Orders placed by PMBJK are pooled location wise and dedicated vehicles are arranged for plying and supplying the stocks falling en route.
  • A dedicated team of BPPI employees has been formed for coordinating with PMBJKs, distributors and local district administration for addressing and resolving the logistic issues.
  • BPPI has tied-up with India Post for delivery of medicines.

Anything important that you would like to highlight?

BPPI is committed to ensuring uninterrupted availability of essential medicines at the PMBJKs. It has clocked a sales turnover of Rs 52 crore despite lockdown and testing times in the month of April 2020 as compared to Rs 42 crores achieved in March 2020. Approximately, Rs 135 crore worth of medicines are sold in the months of March, April and May 2020 which saved around Rs 750 crore of citizens.

BPPI has also supplied medicines to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) for further supply to friendly countries and has also contributed Rs 25 lakh to PM CARES Fund.

In addition, it is also creating awareness about means to fight against the pandemic via its posts on various social media platforms. The mobile application ‘JanAushadhi Sugam’ has become popular and more than four lakh downloads took place. In all these ways, BPPI is playing an active role in the fight against the outbreak of COVID-19.

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