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Coming soon: cheaper pills

Ranchi: Around 6,000 retail medicine stores in Jharkhand will have to have a separate shelf of generic medicines displayed prominently at their establishments.

The Central Drugs Standard Control Organization on Tuesday issued the directive to all states and Union Territories. Drug controller of India S. Eswara Reddy said in the order that the objective was to promote the reach of generic medicines that have same pharmacological effects, but are cheaper than branded pills.

"It has been decided that every retail outlet will reserve separate shelf/rack for stocking generic medicines on licensed premises so that these are visible to consumers," the order read. States have been asked to furnish action taken report at the earliest.

State drug controller Ritu Sahay said she had received a copy of the order and would issue directives to all districts. "The state has around 6,000 retail medicine stores. We shall ensure compliance," she said.

Generic drugs are copies of branded ones that have exactly the same dosage, intended use, effects, side effects, route of administration, risks, safety and strength. The only difference is the cost factor. Generic medicines are cheaper.

Joint director (drug control), Ranchi, Surendra Prasad said generic drugs could be sourced from government empanelled manufacturers. "Drug inspectors will ensure every store has a separate section for generic medicines. There are around 22 shops in the capital, but only a few currently store generic pills. One of them is the government store at RIMS," he said.

Lack of punitive measures may come as a deterrent, he feared. "The directive is advisory in nature and lacks any punitive action clauses. Maybe, the Centre will slowly introduce that too," he said.

Secretary of Jharkhand Chemist and Druggist Association Amar Kumar Sinha welcomed the move. "All shops should co-operate (with state officials) and respect the order," he said.

Ranjit Kumar, owner of Amba Medicine in Morabadi, said availability of generic medicines could be a cause of concern. "I don't have a problem, but distributors will press for branded medicines for their commission," he said.

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