The government has decided to set up a retail network of drug stores across the country in public-private partnership that would sell 350 essential medicines at half the rate of its branded substitute. The project, being launched in 15 states in the first phase, would ultimately ensure at least one such store in every district of the country. The move aims at ending company-chemist nexus which tries to push costlier branded medicines to customers in the name of substitutes. “The department of pharmaceuticals has asked drug manufacturers’ associations and state governments to help in setting up such retail outlets, one each in every district,” SME Pharma Industries Confederation (SPIC) general secretary Jagdeep Singh said. The move is in line with UPA’s Common Minimum Programme agenda to provide affordable medicines. These stores would sell only good-quality generic medicines. Generic formulations are identical to their branded counterpart in terms of dose, strength, efficacy and use. It is learnt from official sources the government has asked industry associations like Indian Drug Manufacturers Association, Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers Of India, Indian Pharmaceutical Association, Confederation of Indian Pharmaceutical Industry and SPIC to join hands with it in its endeavour. Apart from private players, the government has also approached NGOs, chemist associations and state governments to participate in the project. While state governments are being sought to provide space for opening shops, chemist associations and NGOs are likely to play a major role in managing and promoting these shops in future. The Centre would also encourage states to undertake the business on their own. “The government has also asked associations to compile a list of the medicines that could be sold through these stores. It has also asked to identify suppliers of these formulations ,” Mr Singh said. “There is a global shift towards use of generics as governments world-wide are making efforts to bring down escalating health care budgets,” an analyst said. India has achieved a strong foothold in the global generics market. While in 2002 Indian companies accounted for less than 7% of all generic drugs approved for marketing by the US Food and Drug Administration, they accounted for over 20% in 2006.