The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Counter-attack on chemists for ‘easy’ drugs

Aradhana Mukherjee, 36, of Ballygunge Circular Road, has been suffering from acute asthma for quite some time. All along, she has been ‘treating’ herself, taking steroids for some respite. Last week, she finally made it to a general practitioner. The diagnosis: high blood pressure, chronic heart ailment and bone degeneration. The cause: an overdose of drugs taken without consulting a doctor.

With more and more patients queuing up at the doctor’s chamber with complications resulting from an overdose of medicines taken without approval, the government has decided to launch a crackdown and cancel licences of drug stores selling medicines without valid prescriptions.

The government sat up on a prod from the Indian Medical Association (IMA), the largest body of practising doctors in the state, say senior health department officers. The ‘over-the-counter’ crackdown meeting was attended by health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra. To start with, the government has decided to form a “watchdog team” to report against errant pharmacies. It will also run a check on whether chemists’ have at least one trained pharmacist, mandatory for a drug licence.

The situation is spinning out of control, director of medical education C.R. Maiti told Metro. Maiti, one of those who steered the crucial meeting, said a legislation is in place but the monitoring is not. “Usually, only medicines like paracetamols are allowed to be sold without prescription. Now, however, reports suggest that anyone can get most drugs without a prescription,” he observed, adding that the minister had taken a “serious view” of the issue.

“Any pharmacy or chemists’ not following the rules will face disciplinary action, including cancellation of the licence to sell drugs,” warned Maiti.

Doctors say the commonest ailments for which patients double as doctors include asthma, fever, cold and headache. “I often get patients who come to me after an overdose of antibiotics, causing blood diarrhoea and nervous disorders,” said physician Susovan Haldar. “Some take so many analgesics that they develop ulcers and there are others who develop a resistance to drugs.”

The IMA, too, is flooded with complaints from doctor-members. “We have received cases where patients treat themselves with chloroquine for malaria and rifampicin for TB,” IMA joint secretary (headquarters) R.D. Dubey said, also referring to the reported death of a patient from ulcer bleed caused by analgesic overdose.

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