At Pune Zilla Parishad, a novel experiment to track pharmacies and their sale of medicines for fever and cold in rural areas is now systematically being followed up with home visits by medical officers to rule out coronavirus.
With the help of Deloitte India’s firm at Aundh, a call centre has been operational for the last fortnight, where authorities share data from chemists regarding the number of persons who have purchased medicines for flu-like symptoms.
“The employee then calls the concerned person to check on his/her health condition and in case the report states that the medicine has not made much difference, the medical officer is deputed from the respective primary health centres to physically examine the person,” says Sandeep Kohinkar, deputy CEO of Pune Zilla Parishad.
This experiment is the brainchild of Pune ZP’s CEO Ayush Prasad. The data is collected from across 2,193 pharmacies across 13 tehsils. “So far, 4,065 people have purchased medicines from these chemists in the last ten days for symptoms like fever, cold and cough,” Prasad says. Among these, the highest number of people who purchased such medicines were from Junnar (1,438) and Baramati (818).
After checking on the condition of these people, the call centre was able to report at least 200 people who were still unwell. “Our medical officers then visited them at their homes, and in some cases, took swabs, which have tested negative,” Prasad says. A similar exercise is also being followed with private hospitals across 13 tehsils.
With an approximate population of 35 lakh in Pune rural, authorities said there were 48 people who tested positive for the virus, and reported five deaths – two in Haveli, and one each in Baramati, Indapur and Shirur.
S B Patil, Joint Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration, Pune, told The Indian Express that in the wake of a rising number of COVID-19 cases, chemists had been told not to dispense medicines specific to cough, cold and fever without a doctor’s prescription. “We also asked chemists to maintain a record of customers, and data across the city has been sent from over 1,400 retail chemists,” Patil says.
There are approximately 8,000 chemists in Pune city, and due to the lockdown, the number of hours for keeping pharmacies open has been reduced, he added. “However, till date, we have received data of more than 4,000 people who have purchased medicines for cold, cough and fever.”
Across Pune division, including Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Solapur, chemists have been given an email address where they are asked to share data regarding medicines for flu-like symptoms. Anil Belkar, secretary of Pune District Chemists Association, said medical stores had been instructed not to dispense such medicines without prescriptions, and whoever comes to their pharmacy is asked to consult a doctor first.
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