Chemists across India will remain unavailable for twenty hours from today (May 30) to protest against the government’s plan to introduce e-portal to regulate the sale of medicines. They will remain shut till the end of the day.
While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Jagannath Shinde, President of All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) — which has called for the strike said the Central Health and Family Welfare Ministry’s plan to have an e-portal is impractical and will lead to scarcity of medicines in the country.
However, to ensure emergency care is not hit, the AIOCD’s Mumbai chapter has kept at least 19 medical shops open. The chemist shops inside hospitals too will remain open during the protest.
“Considering the insufficient infrastructure of information technology across the country, it will be difficult for most of the stockiest, druggists and chemists to upload the details of the sale on the e-portal within stipulated period,” said Shinde.
A section of pharmacists in Maharashtra have decided not to participate in the protest. “Around 100 pharmacists in Maharashtra have decided to keep their shutters up and not be part of the protest as they do not agree with our demands. We live in democratic country and welcome their views,” said a senior member of AIOCD.
The AIOCD has submitted a point-wise representation to the deputy secretary of the Central Health and Family Planning Ministry (Drugs Control). “Today, in many parts of India, especially in rural areas, homeopaths and ayurveda practitioners prescribe allopathy medicines. If e-portal comes, then should the chemist not sell medicines and reject such prescriptions?” asked Shinde.
He said this will lead to frictions between chemists and patients. “If the medicines are denied on prescriptions prepared by ayurveda, unani, and homeopathy practitioners, rural area healthcare will be hit badly,” Shinde added.
He also pointed out poor internet connections in many parts of India. “Barring urban areas, internet connection is limited or non-existent in rural and remote areas of India. It will be tough for chemists in these areas to comply with government’s plan to make chemists upload every prescription on e-portal,” said Shinde.
While the e-portal is aimed at addressing issues like rising antibiotic resistance in the country by regulating the sale of drugs, AIOCD said it will only increase instead of controlling it. “We already have Food and Drugs Administration to monitor the sale of medicines. We also have regulatory machinery for recording the medicines manufactured in the country and their supply to the stockiest is in place,” said Shinde.
Another reason for protest by AIOCD is online sale of medicines. “Our strike is to bring forward the ground realities faced by chemists and patients. We request government to rethink and cancel the implementation of the e-portal,” said Shinde.