The daylong strike was called to protest against the government’s e-platform proposal to regulate the sale of drugs.

 Chemists shut shop across India associations come up with alternatives for emergencies
news Health Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - 18:34

Most chemist shops were shut across Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh on Tuesday to protest against the government’s e-platform proposal to regulate the sale of drugs. But chemist associations came up with alternatives to help customers who are in need of medicines.

The daylong strike observed by around 8.50 lakh chemists across India is in protest against the government's decision to make e-portal registration for chemists-druggists mandatory. Chemists will have to upload details of all the medicines purchased and sold on the e-platform and will have to pay a transaction fee to support cost of running the system, reported the Business Standard.

Tamil Nadu

In Tamil Nadu, about 30,000 chemist shops have been shut to protest against the Centre’s move. “We have provided emergency numbers to all the association heads and the health secretary and also, the shops attached to the hospital are all open. If there is any emergency, we have our association members who will provide the medicines,” said N Anandan, Administrative Secretary, Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association.

The association claims that close to 4 lakh chemists will have to shut their shops due to new e-platform proposal. “About 4 lakh chemist shopkeepers do not have computer or internet service and because of this, about 4 lakh chemists will have to shut their medical shops. What will the people living in rural areas do? There will not be shops in every area,” said Selvam, President of All India Chemists and Druggists Association.

In case of an emergency for medicines in Chennai, the contact number is 044-24191522. All the shops will remain shut only till 6pm, he added.

Customers, however, were struggling to find medical shops that were open. “My friends need medicines immediately and they have been searching the whole area. We have now contacted an owner of medical shop for the medicines,” said Ashok, who runs a mobile recharge shop in Chennai.

Another resident in Royapettah, said that had stocked up on medicines as they knew that medical shops will be shut on Tuesday. 

Telangana

Despite the strike, Hyderabad saw some medical shops open, which came as a relief for customers. "Most of the medical shops were shut but few are open.  So, there is no problem.  I wanted to buy some medicines for my sister as she has got a bad stomach ache,” said Praveen Kumar, a resident of Kundan Bagh.

“The association had asked chemists to keep at least one shop open in each area,” said Sri Ramalu, Secretary of Hyderabad and Secunderabad Chemists and Druggists Association.

“Most of the shops are closed in Hyderabad, only the medical shops attached to hospitals and clinics are open. Also in every area, at least one medical shop was directed to be open as it should not cause any inconvenience to the public at the time of any emergency. But there are few small shops in colonies and lanes which are voluntarily open and also Apollo stores have been open in Hyderabad.  We cannot monitor each and every small shop. But 80% of the medical shops are closed in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh," he said.

Karnataka

In Karnataka, the Drugs Control Department has taken elaborate steps to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicines. According to V Hari Kumar, President of Bruhat Bengaluru Chemists and Druggists’ Association, around 8,500 medical stores in Bengaluru will remain shut on Tuesday in protest against the online sale of medicines. However, stores in government and private hospitals as well as nursing homes will remain open.

“We are protesting against the sale of online medicines because many drugs sold online are of substandard quality,” he added.

According to a senior official at the Drug Control Department, around 28,000 medical shops across the state will remain shut. Prasad Medappa, vice president, Bengaluru District Chemists and Druggists Association, said stores under their organisation were neutral to the protest and would remain open.

The Drugs Controller of Karnataka, Shalini Rajneesh, Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare told TNM that the department had been assured by hospitals that essential medicines would be made available. “We have put out a list of nodal officer along with their contact numbers on our website drugs.kar.nic.in Our officials will be available at any given point in the day and will be on the move. In case of any emergency, the public must call ‘104’. We will alert the ‘108’ emergency service as well. These services have essential drugs with them,” she said.

State Drug Controller B T Khanapure said that the six nodal officers appointed will direct the patient to the nearest pharmacy, which is open.

Khanapure said that corporate pharmacies like Apollo, Sagar and MedPlus will remain open and in some areas, are also providing home delivery service.

Kerala

The Kerala chemist associations said that they are also protesting for ethical and social reasons. “In many of the medical shops, youths ask for non-prescribed drugs. If we don't provide it they used to create ruckus there. There are hundreds of such cases in Kerala. When they ask for more than three bottles of cough syrup we know that it is not for good use so we don't give without prescription. When the online sale comes they can upload any fake prescription and get the medicine. So, we protest also for ethics and social implications, not just because it effects our market," All Kerala Chemists and Druggists Association state president Thomas Raju told TNM.

(With inputs from Haritha John, Theja Ram, Aditi Mallick and Pheba Mathew)

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