Delhi: Over-the-counter painkillers easy to ban but easier to buy

  • Anonna Dutt, Hindustan Times, Hindustan times
  • Updated: Aug 13, 2015 02:09 IST

Many chemists in Delhi on Wednesday sold without prescription two medicines that interfere with platelet production in human blood, unmindful of the Delhi government’s ban on over-the-counter sale of these drugs in view of a spurt in dengue cases.

The government on Tuesday banned the sale of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or blood thinners and popular painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen — sold as Brufen — without prescriptions from registered medical practitioners.

These two medicines were cited by health minister Satyendar Jain as part of a drive to raise people’s awareness about seasonal diseases, especially dengue that triggers a dangerous drop in platelet count in patients and turns fatal if not treated on time. There have been reports of self-medication leading to deaths.

When Hindustan Times visited seven medicine shops in different parts of Delhi on Wednesday, four didn’t refuse to sell Combiflam, a combination of paracetamol and ibuprofen, and a couple of them did so because they have run out of stock. That left only one shop adhering to the ban.

At a pharmacy near Lok Nayak Hospital, the man at the counter asked for the name of the doctor while writing the receipt for Combiflam. “Who prescribed it?” he wanted to know. When his query was met with a blank look, he said, “I am writing Lok Nayak Hospital. Ok?”

Rather than asking for a prescription, most chemists were interested in the customer giving the exact retail value of the medicine because some of these are as cheap as Re 1 a tablet.

Another shop near Lok Nayak Hospital gave an entire 10-tablet strip of Disprin, a brand of aspirin, because the chemist didn’t have change.

“We don’t sell one or two tablets,” said Manish Gupta, another chemist near Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, handing over a 15-tablet strip of Combiflam.

The chemist said he was not aware of the ban and no notification has come from the government.

Dengue is transmitted by several species of mosquitoes within the genus aedes. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash that is similar to measles.

Doctors say treatment is symptomatic with no specific cure and patients indiscriminately using painkillers risk becoming resistant to these.

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