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Paracetamols off the shelves, people hoard drug for safety

Stores around SSKM Hospital have also reported a spike in the medicine's sales

Debraj Mitra | Published 08.01.22, 01:51 AM
Paracetamol drug was commonly used in Covid treatment.

Paracetamol drug was commonly used in Covid treatment.

Shutterstock picture

Paracetamol, the common fever reducer and pain reliever, is flying off the shelves at pharmacies across the city as Covid cases continue to surge and many are having mild symptoms.

Pharmacists and doctors attributed the soaring demand to panic buying. All Covid treatment protocols have prescribed the use of paracetamol to treat fever.

Drugs once commonly used in Covid treatment but excluded from existing protocol are also being sold, often without a prescription.

“I was selling around 20 strips of paracetamol per day at the end of November. For the past few days, I have been selling over 50 strips per day,” said the owner of a medicine store near NRS Medical College and Hospital.

The stores on Harish Mukherjee Road, near SSKM Hospital, have also reported a spike in the sales of paracetamol. “The purchase of paracetamol has gone up more than two times than before,” said an employee at one of the stores.

The buying pattern has also changed. People are stocking up in large quantities.

“People who would buy four pills at one go are now buying an entire strip. People who bought one strip are buying two strips,” said a pharmacist on Rashbehari Avenue.

During the first and second waves, many people had started stocking up on paracetamol. “It was understandable then as the virus was new. Many people stocked up because they feared that buying the medicine later would trigger suspicion in the neighbourhood. But people are panicking without reason now,” said a store owner in Behala.

There is no supply crisis as yet, said wholesalers. Big pharmacy chains that have a central procurement system are unlikely to have a supply shortage anytime soon. Still, at least one pharmacy chain has stopped selling paracetamol without prescription to “prevent” shortage.

But the buying pattern is heading to a supply crisis at several smaller standalone stores.

Drugs like ivermectin and doxycycline — once commonly used on Covid patients but not part of the existing treatment guidelines — are also being sold on a regular basis.

“These drugs have no effect on Covid. But many people are still buying them,” said Chandramouli Bhattcharya, infectious diseases expert at Peerless Hospital.

“Doxycycline, azithromycin and zincovit are in demand. People are queueing up for them every day,” said one of the owners of another pharmacy chain with around 30 stores in Calcutta.

Pharmacists said they often sold these drugs without prescription. Often, a prescription shared on WhatsApp is produced at a store.

“There is no way to find out if the prescription is meant for the person for whom the medicines are being bought. The buyer shows an image of an old prescription on his phone and says there is an urgent need for the medicines,” said the owner of a store in Jadavpur.

Last updated on 08.01.22, 04:25 AM

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