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Chemists' strike: Nationwide stir on 30 May against online sale of medicine, e-portal plan

The All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists Association will be holding a nationwide strike on 30 May, according to media reports.

The strike has been called to address issues such as the online sale of medicine, the government's e-portal plan and the quality of the DPharma course, which will now be considered a must for wholesale chemists to get a license and the renewal of licences, reports The Indian Express.

According to a report in the The Times of India, the retailers will be on strike for one day and also hold a demonstration at the Jantar Mantar. The All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists Association (AIOCD) represents nine lakh chemists across the country. The organisation told The Times of India that it has made several appeals to the government over the recent changes in regulations as well as the issues of viability of their businesses, but since there was no response to the grievances, the pharmacists say that they were compelled to observe a strike.

The organisation had served advance notices to the Prime Minister's Office, the health ministry, the home ministry and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization, the report adds.

 Chemists strike: Nationwide stir on 30 May against online sale of medicine, e-portal plan

Representational image. Reuters

AN Mohanan, national vice-president of AIOCD and state president of the All-Kerala Chemists and Druggists Association, told The Hindu that they were agitating against the Union Health Ministry's e-pharmacy initiative, which would make it possible for anyone to purchase medicines online.

"This is an absolutely wrong idea in a country like India where it will have long-term repercussions. Though online purchase of medicine is legal in advanced countries, in our country with low computer literacy and extremely weak regulation of the drug industry, the initiative will have serious consequences for public health,” he told The Hindu. Over 15,000 chemists and druggists will go on strike in Kerala.

Chemists insist that the implementation of e-portal will also put into question the veracity of the medicines requested by the consumers, and it will also create further logistical issues.

Vijay Anand, president of the Chandigarh Chemists’ Association, told The Indian Express, "The online service, which the government wishes to provide to patients and consumers, shall not only result in storage problems but may also affect the quality of drugs being supplied. Further, it shall be difficult to ascertain the credibility of the drug supplied online and the time involved in the supply, especially in case of life-threatening emergencies." The report adds that all 600 medical stores in Chandigarh will remain closed in support of the strike.

Another report by The Hindu states that as per the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) system, pharmacists and vendors are expected to upload their data on the government website within a stipulated time. This will prove to be expensive and cumbersome, AIOCD insists. Anand Chandigarh Chemists’ Association adds that if this e-portal is imposed upon chemists, they will end up uploading bills and prescriptions all the day rather than selling medicines, which would compromise sales.

There have been a slew of protests against the online sale of medicines. According to the Hindustan Times, over 40,000 medicine shops in Bihar shut shop on 12 April. A similar all-India pharmacy strike was held on 23 November, reports Deccan Chronicle.

Chemists insist that online pharmacies don't just jeopardise their business, they also aggravate the sale of counterfeits drug and improper use of medicine.

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Updated Date: May 27, 2017 18:16:54 IST

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