New Delhi: Around 7.5 lakh chemists across India today observed a one-day strike against the new drug policy and its impact on traders. However, in some states, pharmacy shops near major hospitals remained open, providing relief to patients.
“We don’t want patients to suffer because of our strike,” Sandeep Nangia, president of Retailers and Distributors Chemist Association (RDCA), affiliated to the apex All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD), told IANS.
“That is why we have asked chemist shops near all major hospitals to remain open today, despite the strike,” he added.
Chemist shop owners near prominent hospitals in Delhi like the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Safdarjung and Ram Manohar Lohia hospitals, agreed.
“The strike is on, but 80 percent of the shops here are open as we cannot let patients suffer,” said Rohit Kumar of All India Medicos, near Safdarjung Hospital.
A similar response was seen in the eight north-eastern states as some medicine shops remained open, said Tripura Chemists and Druggists Association president Ratan Kumar Roy.
“To meet the emergency needs of the patients, some selective medicine shops remained opened in all the eight states of the region,” Roy said, adding that the strike was total and successful in the entire region.
In Odisha, all pharmacists, including those operating round-the-clock, downed their shutters with the exception of government-run pharmacies. Patients had to suffer due to the strike.
Similarly, more than 17,000 retail and wholesale druggist’s and chemist’s shops remained closed in Odisha, though shops in the state-run hospitals remained open to meet urgent needs.
Members of the Utkal Druggist and Chemist Association (UDCA) in Odisha staged sit-ins in district headquarters towns across the state while organization members also staged a protest near the Raj Bhawan, the official residence of Governor S.C. Jamir.
Over 50,000 retail and wholesale pharmacists in Maharashtra, including around 7,500 from Mumbai, joined the strike.
Patients and their attendants across the state had a tough time finding medicines while shops in government hospitals witnessed long queues.
In Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, chemist shops near major government and leading private hospitals opted out of the strike but a majority of the over 1,400 chemists kept their shops shut.
Demonstrations and agitations were held in all parts of the country.
In Assam, members of the Chemists and Druggists Association staged a sit-in in various parts of the state in support of their demands.
Chemists are contending that the new drug policy of the central government will reduce their profits and cause inconvenience and have made four demands, which, if met, would end the stand-off.
The demands include no reduction in trade margins as proposed in the new drug policy, not making it mandatory for a chemist to have a qualified pharmacist at the shop while selling medicines, chemists not to be held responsible for errors of manufacturers, and no Foreign Direct Investment in the pharma trade.