Chemists call off strike but only after many patients suffer

The MSCDA had decided to observe a three-day shutdown in protest against the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) crackdown on chemists operating without qualified pharmacists.

Bitter pill for patients: Long queues were witnessed outside the Poona hospital pharmacy yesterday, as chemist stores in the city shut shop after a three-day strike was called by the Maharashtra Chemists Association. Pic/Krunal Gosavi

“The High Court has asked us to call off the strike, acknowledging that though our demands are valid, the public must not be made to suffer due to this issue,” said Santosh Thevansar, president, Chemists Association of Poona District (CAPD). “A meeting has been arranged with the Chief Minister on December 24,and the matter shall be discussed further during this interaction,” added Thevansar.

Patients affected
Meanwhile, due to the closure of nearly 6,500 pharmacies for most part of the day, people were seen making long queues outside hospital chemist shops. Relatives of patients were finding it difficult to find the prescribed medicines and had to undergo anxiety on account of the pharmacies being closed. “My daughter is schizophrenic and we have run out of stock of her daily medicines.

If she does not take her medicines on time, her psychological worries might resurface. Since all the private pharmacies are shut today, it has become difficult to obtain the medicines. Though the pharmacies attached to the hospitals are running, I couldn’t find all the prescribed medicines at one shop. I have been wandering all over the city to get them,” said Arvind Tripathi (name changed).

Mahesh Nikam, another relative of a patient, said, “My brother is suffering from a kidney ailment and it is important for him to take these medicines on time. I could not get all the prescribed medicines in the pharmacy attached to the Ruby Hall Clinic and so I had to approach other pharmacies to obtain them.”
“Our 11-month-old son is admitted in Kelkar Hospital and we are trying to obtain his medicines for the past two hours. I already visited the medical shop in Sahyadri Hospital, but could not get all the medicines in the prescription,” said Bharat Deshmukh.

“There has indeed been an increase in the number of customers visiting us today,” said Manish Oswal, who runs a 24/7 pharmacy in the premises of Sassoon Hospital. Trying to justify the agitation, Oswal said that though the rules set by the FDA were in the interest of the public, they were notfeasible. 

“It is not possible for a pharmacist to be in a shop 24/7. In that case, each shop will have to employ at least two pharmacists, but this is not practical, as it will lead to financial restraints on the employer. Also, how do they expect us to issue a bill with every single medicine sold? We stand to incur a considerable amount of loss due to this practice,” he added.

“Earlier, the authorities would send a show cause notice in case they found any lapse in the management of the pharmacy. But now, they revoke the licence of the shop immediately and pull down the shutters if they do not find a pharmacist in the shop. The FDA should understand our predicament and not take such stringent actions against us. This system has been running in this manner for more than 50 years now and trying to bring such a drastic change instantly is not possible,” said Oswal.  

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