Hyderabad: All is not well with the pharmacists’ community in the State, as members of their ilk find it increasingly difficult to sustain and find a firm footing in the sector.
A host of issues that have been festering for the last few years have made it difficult for the ‘brick and mortar’ drug stores to survive. The clear and present danger of online pharmacies, which have grown in prominence over the last few years, have made matters worse.
Members of the Telangana State Chemists and Druggists Association (TSCDA), an umbrella organisation of close to 3,000 pharmacists, have said that the State and Central governments should start addressing their concerns by first banning online sale of drugs.
The Union government and respective State governments are yet to come up with a stringent system or a regulatory framework to check online sale of drugs. While there is heavy penalisation for sale of habit forming drugs without prescription on medical shops, a similar kind of regulation has not been introduced for e-commerce companies involved in sale of medicines.
Online drug stores insist that the buyer produce a prescription by sending an attachment or a copy of the scan of the prescription while placing the order. However, there is no system to check authenticity of the prescriptions submitted by buyers online.
“This is leading to misuse and irrational consumption of psychotropic drugs. There is a lack of integrated foolproof monitoring system for self medication, prescriptions and repeated filling of prescriptions,” says TSCDA general secretary G. Srinivas.
The advent of a chain of drug stores, managed by companies such as Apollo Pharmacy and MedPlus, have further complicated the dynamics of the sector. The chain of pharmacy outlets have ample funding, which makes it possible for the them to introduce value added services such as maintaining drug records, follow-ups and ability to offer higher discounts.
“Customers have become kings because of wider choice. It is a fact that the stand alone drug stores have not been able to improvise and compete in the changing market environment. It’s true that compared to online stores, there is a lot of regulatory pressure on stand alone medical shops,” says Ravi Uday Bhaskar, secretary general, All India Drug Control Officer’s Organisation.
One-day strike on Nov 23
Pharmacists in Telangana have decided to join the one-day strike call given by All India Organisation for Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) on November 23 protesting the apparent failure of the government to regulate online pharmacies. Members of the pharmacy association point out that drugs can’t be equated with general commodity.