Around 7000 chemists in the city and other parts of the district shut shop on Thursday raising several demands and protesting against alleged harassment by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorities, their main grouse being suspension of license on “flimsy” grounds. Over 500 chemists gathered outside the FDA office at Guruwar Peth in the morning to protest.
Last year, in October and December, chemists across the state had raised similar grievances and the state had agreed to resolve them. FDA authorities insist they were only trying to ensure compliance of strictures.
Vijay Changediya, Secretary of the Pune District Chemist and Druggists Association, said prescriptions were needed even for ordinary painkillers like Combiflam.
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“Doctors tell patients to keep a stock at home so that they can get pain relief at odd hours during the night,” says Changediya. He asked how can chemists insist on prescriptions for painkillers from customers. He also cited a recent inspection that took wholesaler chemists to task.
Citing an instance where a chemist did not have the drug a customer wanted at 10 pm, he asked the wholesaler to provide the medicine late at night. “FDA suspended the wholesaler chemist for seven days,” Santosh Khinvasra, president of the Pune Chemist and Druggists Association, said.
The chemists submitted a memorandum of demands and threatened to stop work.
“Even as we were protesting, FDA authorities were conducting inspections and were not ready to listen to our grievances,” claims Anil Belkar, Treasurer of the Association.
While the report of the inspection in June has yet to be compiled, FDA had in April and May cancelled 118 licenses of retail chemists in Pune division and suspended 79 while 151 chemists surrendered the licenses on their own. Among wholesalers, nine licenses have been cancelled and 10 suspended, while 32 surrendered them on their own, Assistant Commissioner, Drugs, Vinita Thomas, said.
She said all that was required was to ensure that a pharmacist is present at the drug store while dispensing medicines and ensure that bills are made for drugs sold.
“How do we keep track of substandard drugs? Moreover, there is rampant sale of drugs without prescription. Selling drugs like this over the counter has created problems related to drug resistance,” Thomas said.
When contacted, FDA commissioner Mahesh Zagade said several meetings were held with chemists. “They want lawlessness at the cost of patients’ health. We are working within the legal ambit,” Zagade said.