Over 50,000 chemists across Maharashtra are threatening to go on strike for three days starting October 16, putting the spotlight on a peculiar situation arising from the shortage of doctors.

Chemists are getting booked by the State Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for giving medicines on prescriptions by “cross-party” practitioners, Prasad Danabe, Secretary of Retail and Dispensing Chemists Association (RDCA), told Business Line.

There are regions in the country where registered doctors are not available and qualified homeopaths and ayurvedic practitioners prescribe medicines in the interest of patients, he says, explaining the practice of “cross-party” prescriptions.

Though the Supreme Court does not allow such cross prescriptions, there is confusion in the retail segment, because State Government officials claim to have a notification that allows ayurvedic practitioners to prescribe allopathic drugs, he added. And yet, the State FDA books chemists when they do the same, he said.

Meetings between the Maharashtra FDA and the chemist and druggists associations in the past have not resolved the problem, he said, urging the State Government to bring in greater clarity on what is acceptable.

Calling for transparent guidelines, he said, a list of doctors who can prescribe medicines should be circulated among chemists and they should be educated and not booked.

Facing the brunt

An FDA official did not want to comment on the issue, but said that top officials would meet the chemists towards a resolution.

The Maharashtra State Chemists and Druggists Association Secretary, Anil Navandar, pointed out that chemists were facing the brunt of the confusion, where they were booked or forced to comply with corrupt practices.

About 6,000 chemists will be shut in Mumbai city alone if the strike does go through, said the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists’ President J. S. Shinde.

In fact, RDCA’s Danabe further added that the State Government also needs to check on doctors who sell medicines that are meant to be given free, to patients. He also urged that a Drug Advisory Committee be set up to advise the Government on medicines sold in the State. This would put an end to unhealthy practices where companies sell products that are not allowed in Maharashtra, by producing them in other States that may be less stringent, he observed.

jyothi.datta@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on October 12, 2012)
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