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Mumbai to become first Indian city to have mobile medical shops

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Mumbai is set to become the country’s first city to have mobile generic medicine shops. These aim at providing low-cost, but effective, medicines to needy people. Goregaon-based NGO, Prabodhan Aushadh Pedhi

(medicine bank), has got an in-principal approval from the Centre to start at least two mobile shops, one each for the western and eastern suburbs.

These will have an outdoor patients department, with a doctor, who will examine patients and prescribe generic medicine. A proposal to this effect was first moved two years ago (in the UPA regime), but it has got a positive response from the Union minister of chemicals and fertilisers (which controls the pharmaceutical department), Hansraj Ahir, only recently. Ahir is a BJP MP from Chandrapur, Maharashtra.

“Maharashtra industries minister, Subhash Desai, who heads the NGO, met Ahir recently and gave him a fresh proposal for the facility. Ahir has accepted and put the proposal up for further processing. Final permissions are expected soon,” said Nitin Shinde, who looks after Prabhodhan’s medicine facility.

Shinde said generic medicines cost 100 and 300 times lesser than branded ones. Prabodhan Aushadh Pedhi already has four generic medicine shops in Goregaon (West and East), Malad East and Prabhadevi. Its next destinations include Vile Parle, Borivali and Thane. It also offers at least 10 per cent discount on branded medicines.

“Currently, all we have are fixed shops, but we also wish to reach out to those who do not have easy access to generic medicine. Once we get our mobile vans moving, we will have access to housing societies, slum pockets and places where there is are constraints for fixed shops,” said Shinde.

According to him, the Union ministry has decided to amend the existing rules to allow mobile (generic) medicine shops. “We have mobile libraries, mobile courts, mobile vegetable shops and food joints, but mobile medicine shops will be something special,” he said.

Going by estimates, each mobile shop will cost about Rs 50 lakhs, fitted with deep freezers and other temperature control devices just like any other pharmacy outlet. Permissions from the police and local authorities like society managements will be sought before parking the vans at convenient spots. The vans will travel to different spots each day. Their schedule will be publicised.

The NGO is expected to hold a refresher course for doctors who are willing to prescribe generic medicine and also help people in converting branded medicine into the much-cheaper generic type.