Chemists across India are apprehensive about a delay in the procurement of medicines due to the demonetisation of high denomination currency notes. While they will stop accepting Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes from midnight of November 24, these shops have already seen a delay in the payment of bills by medical retailers to wholesalers, and eventually to pharma companies.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, J S Shinde, president of the All India Chemists and Druggists Association, has warned that the flow of medicines — especially to rural areas — will be affected due to the delay by medical retail shops in depositing money in banks.
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“We have urged the Prime Minister to allow wholesalers dealing in medicines to take Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes. They, in turn, are relying on personal funds and assistance from the bank to pay pharmaceutical companies,” said Shinde.
“We are trying to maintain the supply chain to make life-saving drugs available to the general public. Manufacturers have been requested to provide additional credit facility so that there is no shortage of drugs. However, if the current situation continues, we fear that the supply of medicines will be hit,” said Shinde.
Annually, medicines worth Rs one lakh thousand crore is sold in the domestic market and there are 8.5 lakh retail chemists and 1.5 lakh stockists (wholesalers) across the country. At least 35-40 per cent of chemists and wholesalers in rural areas have been affected by the cash crunch, he pointed out. Shinde warned that with no cash flow, one-man pharmacies in rural areas were likely to shut shop.
Vijay Changediya, president of the Pune District Chemists Associations, said the entire system had become “jammed”.
The majority of 6,000 medical retailers and 400 wholesalers in Pune district were facing the problem of a delay in making payments.
“Wholesalers are not taking Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes… for a small-time medical retailer, who has to stand for four to five hours in a queue to deposit whatever cash he has got, is really cumbersome,” said Changediya.
He added, “While we are accepting old notes , it will be only till midnight of November 24… Chemists have been cooperative and at my pharmacy in Hadapsar, I have given medicines on credit to almost 400 people,” he said.
Rohit Kapre, a wholesaler at Sadashiv Peth, admitted that retailers have been sending their payments via cheques but there is already a delay in paying the bills of pharmaceutical companies. “So far, we have avoided a situation that could lead to a shortage of medicines and requested banks for funds to ensure uninterrupted supply,” said Kapre.
Nationwide strike against e-pharmacies deferred A nationwide strike against e-pharmacies on November 23 was deferred due to the cash crisis caused by demonetisation. J S Shinde said, “On humanitarian grounds, we have cancelled today’s nationwide strike against e-pharmacies. Already, the common man is fed up of waiting in queues and keeping our pharmacies shut today will add to their woes”.