The Food and Drug Administration’s tough stance vis-a-vis rules binding on chemist shops has led around 7,000 pharmacies across the city to join in a call for a strike today.
Chemists affiliated to the joint coordination committee of the Retail & Dispensing Chemists Association and Pharmaceutical Wholesalers Association will remain shut from 7 am to 11 pm. However, chemist shops on hospitals premises would be functioning as usual.
The chemists are cross with the pharmaceutical vigilance body’s yearlong crackdown on their shops for not employing a pharmacist to dispense medicines. As per law, a qualified pharmacist must be present to assist sales in every medical shop. The FDA also wants every sale of medicine to be documented and the bill signed.
“The FDA’s drug inspector visits chemist shops with a letter endorsed by the assistant commissioner just to stop sales and suspend or cancel licences. The authority blames chemists for the increase in the number of drug-resistant TB cases, citing that sales happen without bills. The bump in cases is due to socio-economic factors. Chemists are not responsible for this. The FDA is wrongly kicking the blame at chemists for selling banned drugs. There is nor proper system in place to recall such medicines,” said a chemist requesting anonymity.
The convener secretary of the chemists’ joint coordination committee, Prasad Danave, said, “The FDA is comparing India with the US and wishes to have one pharmacy per 16,000 people in Mumbai city. At the same time, it wants to keep only 1,000 of 6,000 pharmacies operational, which is against the central government’s policy. Medicines should be easily accessible all over the country.”
He added, “The association isn’t against obeying the law. We are proud that Maharashtra’s healthcare system, which includes chemists, is the best in the country. As such, the protest by association members includes all retailers and wholesalers in Mumbai, who will close their establishments on Monday.”
Shailesh Kale, joint commissioner, vigilance, said, “The FDA started taking action on errant chemists two years ago for the benefit of citizens. The strike is a call for public attention and it will put people’s health at stake. This is the fourth strike in the last two years.”