In a major blow to patients and common man, 55,000 chemists shops in Maharashtra are likely to be closed today. This development comes on the back of The All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) call for nation-wide protest against the Centre’s move to regularise online sale of drugs. Around 8.5 lakh chemist shops across India are said to be taking part in this strike. So, patients would be forced to buy medicines from government pharmacies or hospitals. The load on government hospitals will increase as a result of this.
AIOCD president Jagannath Shinde said, “There is insufficient infrastructure for e-pharmacy in India. The association believes that e-portals can cause scarcity of medicines in the country,” reported Indian Express. The body believes that it is not a fair practice and their biggest worry is a massive cut in profit margins owing to the stiff competition from e-portals. Following a government public notice in April inviting suggestions on the online sale of drugs, the AIOCD had submitted a representation to the Union health ministry to look into grievances.
The number of e-pharmacy websites have significantly increased over the past three years, providing an option to upload a prescription, which will be verified by a pharmacist and the medicines delivered at customers’ door-step. The e-pharmacy websites also offers extra discount on prescription to attract buyers and increase their sale. Retail chemist shop owners claim that selling medicines online makes it difficult to verify drug quality, and makes sale of psychotropic substances easier. However, according to the Indian Internet Pharmacy Association (IIPA), an umbrella body for e-pharma portals, e-pharmacy will not only make the process of drug dispensing transparent but it will also help in accountability.
“We are happy that the government is committed to reform the healthcare sector in India and not just in online space. Having said that, the strike will be very inconvenient for patients and can even cause serious repercussions. As an online healthcare company, we can work with the government on healthcare data and patient reforms,” said Prashant Tandon, President of IIPA and founder of PharmEasy website.