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Pharmacies shut shop

Fair pricing of drugs triggered a shortage of pharmacies to buy medicines from on Monday, making a mockery of the rule that they must open even when everything else is shut.

Barely three per cent of the pharmacies in Calcutta — there are around 12,000 of them — opened on a day when pharmacists hit the streets to reach the city centre and bring traffic to a standstill for four hours in protest against the decision to set up fair-price drugstores.

That left anybody looking for a prescription pill scurrying from one part of the city to another looking for a pharmacy that was open. Those that did business were mostly in the large hospitals, both private and government-run.

The 24-hour Apollo Pharmacy at Baguiati’s AC Market was among those allegedly forced shut by members of the Bengal Chemists and Druggists Association and reopened after police intervention.

High court advocate Gautam Das looked lost standing outside the lone medicine shop he found open in front of Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, only to be told that the medicines he wanted weren’t available.

“I started from home (in Bansberia) at 8am and now it is 6pm. I have gone from Bagri Market to Alipore to College Street but I have not found my brother’s medicines. He will miss at least the first dose tomorrow morning,” he told Metro.

Families of critically ill patients faced the most difficulty finding the prescribed drugs, some being forced to postpone appointments for certain medical procedures.

“We have had to keep even chemotherapy patients waiting till their medicines are found somewhere,” said surgical oncologist Gautam Mukhopadhyay around noon.

Minister of state for health and family welfare Chandrima Bhattacharya called the strike “illegitimate” and warned of penalties.