Nearly a week after the 21-day nationwide lockdown was announced to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (SARS-COV-2), India is still facing hiccups in ensuring adequate and timely supplies of medicines. The shortage of manpower, coupled with an ongoing fear of disciplinary action by law enforcement authorities, means that stocks of medicines have been slow to reach retail outlets despite them being considered “essential”.
For instance, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine medicines like Ipca Laboratories’ HCQS and Lariago are still stocked out in several pharmacies in Delhi.
Hydroxychloroquine, especially, is used by several patients with auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, according to Fortis Memorial Research Institute rheumatology consultant Dr Naval Mendiratta.
Further, stocks of blood pressure medicines, insulin and other medicines to treat diabetes have stopped making their way to distributors, said All India Chemists and Distributors Fedration president Kailash Gupta.
The All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD), too, on March 29 wrote to various pharmaceutical associations to “support and ensure” adequate stocks of medicines at their depots and to coordinate transportation to chemists and druggists.
“At present, it is reported from all states that stock level is going down and may last for the next 15-20 days. Therefore, we request you to please look into the issue and ensure that sufficient stock is maintained at your stock points,” stated AIOCD president JS Shinde and general secretary Rajiv Singhal in the letter.
Meanwhile, a large number of medical stores in and around Hyderabad enlisted in the essential establishments during the lockdown have downed their shutters. If a disruption in supply leading to a shortage in stock is one reason, the absence of workers from attending to their duties is another.
According to Kishan Murary Shetty, general secretary of the Greater Hyderabad Retail Medical Shops Association, around 60 per cent of medical stores in the city are shut as of today.
“Employees are unable to come to work. Most of them depend on public transport and are unable to reach for work. Others who own vehicles are being stopped at police checkpoints and despite showing ID cards they are not being allowed to go,” he said.
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