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Modi govt to procure 1 cr hydroxychloroquine tablets for its affordable medicine scheme




A Jan Aushadhi store | @pmbjpbppi
A Jan Aushadhi store | @pmbjpbppi

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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is looking at procuring 1 crore tablets of hydroxychloroquine, which has caught the world’s attention as a possible cure to the novel coronavirus, for its affordable medicine scheme Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PM-BJP), ThePrint has learnt.    

The move comes after the Union Ministry of Health decided to procure 10 crore tablets of hydroxychloroquine from pharmaceutical majors Ipca Laboratories and Zydus Cadila. 

The government is ready to float another order for 1 crore tablets, which will be stocked with medical stores under the Jan Aushadhi scheme. 

The government normally procures 10-15 lakh of the tables annually under the scheme as they are also sold for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. 

“We are preparing a tender for the procurement of 1 crore tablets for the retail outlets. The drug will be sold only on the valid prescription and retailers will follow the rules applied for selling drugs under schedule H1,” said a senior official at the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP), Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, who did not wish to be named. 

The scheme, implemented by the Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI), comes under the ambit of DoP.   

“We have requested Zydus Cadila and Ipca Laboratories to participate in the tender process. The price quoted for the procurement is Rs 3.50 per tablet,” the official added. 

The two companies are the country’s largest manufacturers of the anti-malarial drug. 

Until now, hydroxychloroquine came under ‘Schedule H’ of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 — the law which regulates the import, manufacture and distribution of drugs. It has now been moved to the stricter Schedule H1. 

Under both schedules, the drug can be sold only on prescription. However, moving to a stricter schedule means chemists will have to keep a record of the prescription for every purchase of hydroxychloroquine.

Also read: India sends Sri Lanka shipment of HCQ, paracetamol, Rajapaksa thanks Modi for ‘warm gesture’

Jan Aushadhi stores and the Covid-19 fight  

Under the Jan Aushadhi Pariyojana, the government operates 5,000 medical stores across the country for affordable medicines. It is a popular scheme of the Narendra Modi government and comes with some surrogate branding for the BJP.  

The government expects a jump in demand if the drug is proved successful in treating Covid-19 and wants to stockpile them in the Jan Aushadhi stores. They will also act as a buffer stock.  

In February, the government procured masks from the Jan Aushadhi retail outlets when it sent “emergency supplies” to China.     

“Similarly, we can help the government later in case of any emergency, for the supply of HCQ as well. Also, our stores are available across India including remote areas. In the future, if the drug gets approval for showing efficacy in  the treatment, we will have enough stocks,” said the official quoted above.   

Originally named the Jan Aushadhi Yojana (JAY) when launched by the Congress-led UPA government in 2008, the scheme was re-branded and relaunched in 2015 by the Modi government as the Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Yojana (PM-JAY), with the PM receiving credit for reviving it.

In 2016, it was again renamed to Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PM-BJP), with PM Modi making it a point to aggressively promote it in his election rallies.

Also read: Shops open on alternate days, schools shut — states want to phase out lockdown after 14 April


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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’




doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”

Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot

‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.

Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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