Medical crisis looms large over Pune

Jun 07, 2013, 07:40 IST | Anup Satphale

There's significant shortage of medicines � including drugs for diabetics and those with psychological disorders � as retailers in the city are refusing fresh stocks to protest FDA diktat that every medical shop must hire two pharmacists. Store owners claim the situation will worsen in coming days

If you aren’t one of those endowed with a robust immune system, then the coming days are going to test you on the health front. The decision of wholesale medical stores of stopping purchase of medicines from June 3 has resulted in significant shortage of medicines in the city. As a result of this ongoing stalemate, many diabetics, for instance, are finding it hard to get their medicines on time. Other products that have witnessed a shortfall include Risdon syrup, commonly prescribed to patients suffering from psychological disorders. In some parts of the city even antacids and some vitamin supplements are also in short supply. Medical shop owners have claimed that if the situation will only worsen in the coming days.

Stocking up: People purchasing medicines at a wholesale drugstore in Sadashiv Peth. Pic/Krunal Gosavi

Meanwhile, Maharashtra State Chemist and Druggist Association (MSCDA) have planned an executive meet at Jalgaon on Sunday. Association members would take a call on surrendering their licences to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to mark a protest against ‘harsh’ execution rules.

Sharing some information about the scenario, Roshan Jain, owner of Poona Medical store, said, “At any given time, medical store owners have stocks for seven to fourteen days. Major outlets like ours have enough supplies to last a month. But because of the decision, there is at least a 10 per cent shortage of medicines in the city.”

“We are falling short of basic medicines for diabetics, along with Risdon syrup,” informed Rahul Kondalkar, representative of an Apollo Pharmacy store.

Retailers are opposing FDA’s instruction to appoint two pharmacists per store, and maintain transparency in bookkeeping.

Vijay Chendgedia, secretary of MSCDA, Pune, said, “We are basically opposing the FDA’s inconsiderate implementation of rules. According to them, there should be pharmacists present all the time when a shop is open. We are not saying that we don’t want to obey the regulations, but the implementation should not be unsympathetic. If a pharmacist leaves for a few minutes during which FDA officials visit, they force us to close the shop for some time, which creates problems for us.”

Sharing more information, another member of MSCDA, who did not wish to be named, said “MSCDA has planned an executive meet on Sunday at Jalgaon to decide about the next move. For now we have stopped purchasing medicines, but are planning to also return the licences.”

“We will be surrendering the licences to the government on July 15. If we shut down our shops, the government will implement Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA). So, fed up with the constant harassment, we will hand in our licences to the government,” said another senior MSCDA member.

Speaking to the media, Anil Navandar, secretary of MSCDA, said, “We think FDA is purposely trying to harass all medical stores. We suspect these stringent rules have been brought in to pave the way for multinational players in the country through FDI.

Commenting on this, Ramchandra Bhilare, assistant commissioner of FDA (Drug), who also holds charge as joint commissioner for Pune division, said, “We are doing our duty in implementing the law. There is no issue of harassment. Few months ago we announced a drive to examine pharmacists at medical stores. And we have been following this line.”

FDA has also asked chemists not to participate in this dissent of non-purchasing of medicines.

“In Delhi, Competition Commission of India has slapped a fine of Rs 47 lakh on All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists. If chemists continued the stir, they’ll face legal action.” 

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