Jagannath Shinde, President, Maharashtra State Chemists & Druggists Association, in an interaction with Usha Sharma, talks about his re-election and why online pharmacies should not be promoted by the government
You have been re-elected for the fourth time. What added responsibilities will you have?
I have witnessed elections in AIOCD across various posts since the last 25 years. Since the last 12 years, I am shouldering the responsibilities of the chemists fraternity of India. As the President of AIOCD, my role will be to work more vigorously. In my current tenure, I need to sort out many new challenges which have emerged due to new government policies in the health sector.
Which are the issues faced by pharmacists and what are the solutions provided by AIOCD?
There were several issues like hike in heavy license fee, renewal fee, new drug policy and DPCO and its impractical implications, GST return on leakage, breakage expiry of goods returned to manufacturers, and most importantly, internet/online pharmacy. We have raised our concerns with the government regarding increased license fee and it has been sorted out successfully. We have a series of representations on new drug policy and online pharmacy with the government, which they are proactively looking into.
What steps have the AIOCD taken to uplift the morale of pharmacists across India?
We are all aware about that the changing scenario. I believe our chemists should gear up and be ready to compete with incoming retail chains. Looking at this scenario, I have started a programme for retailers in Maharashtra with the help of State Pharmacy Council to update/upgrade the knowledge of pharmacists by conducting Continuing Education Programmes (CEP) and Patient Council Programmes (PCC) in every district and taluka. The programme will enhance chemists about the latest knowledge, practical approach towards needy patients, fully computerisation of retail shops and patient counselling. These are the main subjects taught in the programme.
Almost 60 per cent of registered pharmacists have taken part in the initiative
and have updated to compete with the retail chains. I plan to spread the programme across India.
As the President of AIOCD and Maharashtra Safe Chemists and Distributors Alliance (MSCDA), I have launched a limited company under the name and style, AIOCD Limited and MSCDA Limited, through which we are organising such programmes and floated a chain of retailers under the banner M+M (Medicines plus More) to compete with incoming retail chains.
During your tenure in AIOCD, how has the Indian pharma industry evolved? What has been AIOCD role towards the industry’s progress?
We as an association meet the industry on a regular basis and exchange dialogues with them as well as jointly with the government to resolve issues faced by us. We are of the opinion that we shall grow only when the industry grows and therefore we are always supportive to the pharma industry. Selling/storing of medicines are bound by Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Rules and Drugs Price Control order, which needs to be strictly followed and this we bring to the knowledge of marketing people of the industry to resolve some of the issues. We have cooperated with the government by withdrawing the banned drugs from the market, which has helped the government, industry and administration.
What steps have AIOCD taken to ensure delivery of quality products to the end consumer?
Few drugs require cold storage supply chain which are required for specific diseases. Some retailers do have supply chain by which such drugs are supplied in metro cities as well as district places. AIOCD has instructed district associations to make such supply chain in their district with few wholesaler and retailers. Hereby, a company as well as chemist maintain the potency of such drugs till the drug reaches the end user that is patient. In some cases, even companies supply such drugs to the end user directly where the chemist are not able to provide cold storage facility. Hence, no patient is deprived of availability of drugs in required temperature.
What will be your say on GST?
AIOCD is the first trade association which supported the government’s GST initiative. It didn’t affect the trade in any way except the leakage breakage expiry, saleable goods return to the manufacturers and its repayment to traders in reverse mechanism in GST. This has been addressed to the manufacturer’s association as well as GST Council members and the central government. The GST Council members and the finance department has welcomed our memorandum on this issue by understanding it and given instruction to resolve this burning issue at the earliest which we are surely hopeful.
Online pharmacist association have been arguing that offline pharmacists are not securing medical prescriptions from patients/ relatives and failing the guidelines. What is your say?
Please note that online pharmacy is not permitted in many developed countries for many reasons. Where permission is given for online, strict norms, legal punishment are followed, which is definitely not possible as of today with the present Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, and due to lack of sufficient man power in administration. Any banned drugs, prescription drugs, habit forming hallucinating drugs, abortion pills are freely available through online pharmacy. This has been proved by submitting the authentic documents in Bombay High court in one of the PILs admitted by one lady professor. The high court slammed the government and FDA administration to immediately stop such sale and report to the court within four weeks. I am doubtful about the action by the government and administration, which is not seen even today.
There is no demand for online medicines except in metro cities. Medicines cannot be bought online like any other products. It needs prescription of an authentic medical doctor, its history, dispensing under the direct supervision of a registered pharmacist and the patient instructions, patient counselling which one should not forget. When government allows or overlooks the allopathy prescription written by a homeopathy doctors, which is not truly permitted by law why not a registered pharmacist can dispense over the counter drugs to needy person when he cannot afford to go to doctor or the MBBS doctors are not available in the area. This is the system followed in other developed countries. One should not forget, sale of medicine is not a business, it is a controlled profession done under educated persons in the profession who are registered under different rules and regulation.
During the last one to two years, there has been a surge in strike by nationwide chemists against online pharmacies. Is strike justified?
Apart from our chain of eight lakh chemists, another 20 lakh people and their families are dependent on this profession. The government should safeguard us as large number of people will be drastically affected. We have no alternative but to go for a strike to bring our plight to the notice of the government.
What will be your message for the pharma industry and chemists?
The government’s Jan Aushadhi scheme is not successful due to lack of knowledge of this profession and the working pattern of making drugs available in the pharmacy. We have a chain of eight lakh chemists and it can be successfully implemented through our members. I assure you that it would be the biggest success which the whole world will appreciate and follow.
In the last decade which disease profiles have seen a surge?
In the last decade, hypertension, diabetes and psychotherapy are the main/major diseases which have been spread largely in Indian community due to stress factor, consumption of junk food by younger generation. We are giving stress upon the counselling (patient instructions) to such patients in detail on these diseases in our PCC and CEP programmes. To our satisfaction patients are also taking information, knowledge and support of pharmacists to understand how, how much and when to take medicines and precautions while taking them. We are successful for serving the people of India in health care by our knowledge.