Although the state government has initiated a campaign to ensure registered pharmacists are present at medical stores while dispensing medicines,it has failed to provide adequate number of drug inspectors to the Food and Drug Administration,who now face a herculean task.
There are only 10 drug inspectors in the entire Pune district. In fact,there are only 120 drug inspectors across the state,whereas the requirement is for more than 500. Officials,who wished to remain anonymous,said the requirement in Pune district alone is over 25.
Under pressure of an ever-increasing workload,FDA has urged the government to appoint more staff to help carry out its duties. Highly placed officials at FDAs Mumbai headquarters admit that there is a shortage of manpower.
For instance,at the city-level each drug inspector has to conduct inspections of 30 to 35 chemist shops,apart from checking blood banks,industrial manufacturing units and presenting evidence in court cases filed against the offenders.
In Pune district,over 400 court cases have been filed in various issues,relating to sub-standard drugs,shops with no licenses,etc.
When contacted,Joint FDA Commissioner (Drug) B R Masaal told Newsline that till March end,they have issued showcause notices to 30 shops as they did not have a pharmacist present during the time of inspection. A stop activity order has been issued after inspecting some 343 shops,he said.
Of the 30 shops,nearly eight are from Kothrud area. The shops are allowed to re-open once the chemists file an affidavit that they would appoint a pharmacist.
The chemists and the FDA have been at loggerheads ever since the latter began a stringent drive to ensure the presence of a pharmacist in shops to dispense medicine. While chemists said that there is a lack of qualified pharmacists,FDA authorities say that the rule has to be followed as they are dealing with peoples lives.
In October last year,chemists went on a three-day strike in the city. Earlier in January and February too,there were various protests and voluntary shutting down of chemist shops following crackdowns by the FDA.
There are more than 1.5 lakh registered pharmacists,but according to FDA officials at the headquarters in Mumbai,there were no pharmacists in 25,000 of the 60,000 shops in the state. As per the Drugs and Cosmetics Act,it is mandatory to have a pharmacist present in the chemist shop at all times,but somehow this is not being strictly followed,an FDA official pointed out.