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Ayushman Bharat, Schedule M on health ministry and DoP’s top agenda


Expansion of the Ayushman Bharat scheme and implementation of revised Schedule M (related to quality drug production) and pharma marketing code may be on the priority lists of the health ministry and the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP), as Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi is set to lead a new coalition government.

The Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY), the flagship health care insurance scheme of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led central government, is set to receive a concerted push from the health ministry under the new government. 

According to sources, the scheme, touted as the world’s largest health protection programme, may see an expansion of coverage. The BJP, in its manifesto, had said that if elected back to power, the party will expand the scheme to cover senior citizens and transgenders.

“We will expand the Ayushman Bharat Yojana to cover senior citizens and provide them access to free and quality healthcare…We will expand the network of Garima Grahas to cater to the needs of transgender individuals. We will issue identity cards to ensure their recognition nationwide. Furthermore, all eligible transgender individuals will be covered under the Ayushman Bharat Yojana”, the party said in its manifesto. 

According to data available on the National Health Authority (NHA) dashboard, the scheme has, so far, covered over 345 million citizens who received free health insurance of Rs 5 lakh for hospitalisation.

Industry sources said the Centre was considering a proposal on increasing coverage under the Ayushman Bharat scheme to Rs 10 lakh from the current Rs 5 lakh.

Hospitals have complained of delays in reimbursement related to the scheme. Ironing out these differences and securing more funding for the scheme could emerge as major challenges. 

The health ministry formed a 16-member committee in March this year to look into the implementation of the scheme and oversee progress in beneficiary identification, hospitalisation and modes of implementation.

According to sources, implementation of the revised Schedule M, which includes good manufacturing practices guidelines to ensure manufacturing of quality drugs, is on the priority list of the Department of Pharmaceuticals that comes under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers. Schedule M prescribes good manufacturing practices (GMP) for pharmaceutical products.

Some of the major changes introduced in the revised Schedule M include the introduction of a pharmaceutical quality system (PQS), quality risk management (QRM), product quality review (PQR), qualification and validation of equipment, and a computerised storage system for all drug products.

Sources indicate that the DoP will also work on the Revised Pharmaceuticals Technology Upgradation Assistance (RPTUAS) scheme, aiming to offer financial support to drug manufacturers for upgrading their technological capabilities and aligning with global standards.

Another high-priority policy is the proper implementation of the Uniform Code for Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP) 2024, which aims to curb the unethical marketing of drugs and ban medical representatives from using inducements to access healthcare professionals.

The process has already begun on this, but one challenge could be ensuring compliance with the scheme, monitoring the tens of thousands of small and big pharma companies, as well as the litigations that may arise as a result.


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