Chemists plan nationwide strike on November 23

Mumbai, Nov 2 (IANS) The All India Organisation of Chemists & Druggists (AIOCD) on Wednesday announced a nationwide strike on November 23 to protest action against what it termed ‘illegal’ online sales of medicines.

“We have opposed the central government’s move towards regularising sale of medicines online, through Internet, e-pharmacy, etc,” said AIOCD President J.S. Shinde in a statement today.

The AIOCD is the umbrella body of around 800,000 members, including 55,000 in Maharashtra, engaged in sales and distribution of retail drugs and medicines across the country.

Shinde said the nationwide strike would highlight the risks to the health of the general public and protect the interests of the chemists, the eight million plus members and their families engaged in the industry.

He said the country must thoroughly study the risk and threats observed in e-pharmacy business in the advanced countries which permit sale of medicines on Internet with strict infrastructure, manpower and good governance.

While the Indian courts are serious on the impact on public health by online sales of medicines, the Indian government has not yet taken the issue seriously and appear ignorant of the risks to public health.

The AIOCD pointed out various issues pertaining to sale of medicines on Internet, which is totally illegal as per existing provisions of the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules 1945.

He said there is increasing risk of adverse drug reaction, easy opening to entry of low quality, misbranded and spurious medicines, big threat of irrational use of medicines, drug addiction among youth due to easy availability of schedule or prescription medicines online.

Shinde said that among the drugs and medicines available online illegally include prescription and schedule medicines like I-pill, MTP kits, codeine cough syrups, anti-depressants, and other habit-forming drugs.

This is the second nationwide strike after a similar action last year on October 14 for the same reasons.

Incidentally, last year the Maharashtra Food & Drugs Authority (FDA) had launched a major counter-offensive against more than two dozen online companies and seized huge quantities of drugs in Mumbai, Thane and Pune.