New Delhi: Over eight lakh chemists across the country will shut their shops for a day on Wednesday to oppose the central government's alleged move to regularise the sale of medicines through e-pharmacies on the Internet.
They also warned of an indefinite strike if the government failed to address the issue within a week.
"Internet pharmacy is a new platform for the sale of medicines for the last one year. It is completely illegal and we have even apprised higher authorities that such sale of medicines is a violation of Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, which talks of proper prescription by doctors," All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) president J.S. Sinde said at a media briefing here.
A delegation of AIOCD has submitted a memorandum of demands to several authorities, including the Prime Minister's Office, the health ministry, the Drug Controller General of India and state authorities, he said.
Shinde said the online sale of medicines increased the risk of adverse drug reactions/side effects and would enable the entry of unbranded and spurious medicines.
"It poses a big threat of irrational use of medicines, leading to drug addiction among the youth, affect availability of medicines in rural India and prove a setback to the 800,000-plus chemists and pharmacists employing nearly eight million people across the country, he added.
Speaking about why e-pharmacy was successful in developed nations, including the US, AIOCD secretary Suresh Gupta said there were proper laws to govern online sale of medicines.
"Presently, online pharmacies accessible on the Internet supply I-pills, MTP kits, anti-depressants, cough syrups etc. without confirming the authenticity of prescriptions or the patients," Gupta said.
Meanwhile, following the call for the October 14 strike, government hospitals in all states, especially in the national capital, have decided to replenish their stocks of medicines.
"I have already instructed officials to ensure adequate medicines and a proper back-up for October 14. In case of a major shortage, we will see how to tackle it," said A.K. Rai, medical superintendent of Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital.
A senior officials from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) told IANS: "The AIIMS pharmacy has enough stocks of medicines. We will try our best to handle the patients rush on October 14. However, such strikes are against humanity."
Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital and AIIMS outpatients' departments witness daily arrival of around 8,000 and 10,000 patients respectively.
Meanwhile, chemist associations from several states, including Goa, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, have confirmed they would participate in the proposed strike.