Demonetisation has claimed its latest victim – your neighbourhood medicine shops.
Medicine sales have fallen by around 17% in the last one month, thanks to the unending cash woes.
Painkillers, antibiotics and medicines for cough and flu, mainly those that are purchased for daily use, have seen the highest decline in sales.
According to data by the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD), which represents over 750,000 chemists across India, the sale of medicines has fallen by around 17% in the last one week.
“While people are still struggling to collect cash in hand, over 80% of chemists do not have access to swiping machines or digital payment methods,” said JS Shine, president , AIOCD. “Patients are delaying surgeries, and instead of buying medicines for a month, are buying just for a week to save cash in hand.”
The market for chronic drugs had grown by around 5% in the first week after the government announced its demonetisation move on November 8, according to data from pharma research firm AIOCD-AWACS. “The market for chronic drugs, especially anti-diabetic and cardiac drugs, which are used daily and are unavoidable for patients, grew as people stocked them to utilise their old currency notes,” said RC Juneja, CEO of Mankind Pharma, which has seen about 20% fall in sales in the last one month.
While in the beginning, chemists were allowed to accept old notes of R500 and R1000, they are currently facing a shortage of lower denomination currency, especially R100 notes. “Even if the purchase is for as low as R50, the customer offers a R2,000 note. It is not possible for us to arrange lose money for every transaction. Hence, we end up refusing the transaction or give the medicines on credit,” said Dev Prakash, a pharmacist at a Karol Bagh-based outlet in the Capital.
Moreover, pharmacies are also facing a shortage in stocks since they can no longer accept old notes. “Chemists were taking payments in cash, while payments to distributors were to be made in cheques. Considering the long queues at banks, payments to distributors are getting delayed, thereby blocking the supply of stock till date,” Shinde said. Around 40% of pharmacists do not have bank accounts to write cheques, he added.