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Hospital head forced to buy overdose

Arguments at two medicine shops opposite Calcutta Medical College and Hospital over serving a prescription last Sunday drew the attention of other customers.

Both shopkeepers refused to sell anything less than the entire strip of the prescribed drug, and even advised the buyer to give an overdose to his ailing wife, for whom the drugs were meant. This may be a regular happening at drug stores, but this time the buyer was none else than hospital superintendent Kusum Kumar Adhikari.

Armed with a prescription from the head of the department of ENT, Medical College, Adhikari dropped in at the medicine shops opposite his college and asked for four Healzyme tablets for his wife. “But both the shop-owners insisted on my buying the entire strip of nine tablets, costing Rs 95. When I declined, saying I did not have the cash, I was virtually shown the door,” an agitated Adhikari said on Sunday.

Still smarting from the humiliation, Adhikari said customers are not bound to purchase an entire strip of medicine from a shop. “I have lodged a formal complaint with Drug Controller K. Roy against the two medicine shopowners and I wanted to know if they could force a customer to purchase drugs according to their dictates,” he said.

Only last year, minister of state for Sunderbans affairs Kanti Ganguly had faced a similar situation when he was denied Pethidrine for his ailing son by a medical shop in the Beckbagan area. An angry minister immediately brought it to the notice of the Drug Controller, who later suspended the licence of the shop concerned for seven days on the basis of an investigation. However, the shopowner placated the minister by apologising to him.

“It is mandatory for a medicine shop to provide medicine to a customer if he or she produces a proper prescription from a doctor. The shopowner cannot force a customer to purchase an entire strip of medicine. However, if the medicine is in liquid form, only then is a customer obliged to buy the whole bottle,” said A.K.Roy, deputy director, in charge of investigation, at the Drug Controller’s office.

Roy said the office will conduct a probe on the basis of a complaint from the medical college superintendent. “If the allegation against the shop-owners is proved genuine, we shall suspend their licences as we did last year, on the basis of minister Ganguly’s complaint,” he added.

Officials said customers will be asked to inform the drug controller if they are denied medicines in accordance with their requirements. “Any pressure on customers to purchase more medicine than one requires will be firmly dealt with,” said S.K. Basu, another deputy director of the drug controller’s office.

The shop-owners said in their own defence during the day that they wanted the superintendent to purchase the entire strip of tablets only because other customers may not like to take the remaining ones.

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