Baby food, soaps and health supplements could soon disappear from your friendly neighbourhood chemist’s shelves if the government decides to turn this proposal into a regulation. According to minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, “Companies buy consumer trust by selling products at pharmacies. Products like Nestle Cerelac and Johnson & Johnson’s baby soaps, or health supplements are not meant for sale at medical stores.”
“We are considering a proposal to restrict pharmacies from selling categories apart from drugs and medical devices, where over 7 lakh pharmacies would only sell approved products,” Ahir told HT.
And there’s a Maggi element in this plan. The recent controversy over instant noodles made by Nestle India had also featured the company’s baby food supplement, Nan Pro, coming under the safety scanner. The noodle row saw the government expanding its vision to think of banning the sale of baby food, cosmetics, health supplements and similar other non-medical products at pharmacies.
“These products are not medicines and people should not buy them under the impression that they are safe, effective and good for health because medical stores sell them,” Ahir said.
Consumer activists and chemists’ organisations don’t agree. “We strongly oppose the move. It would impact the volume of sales at medical stores and drastically impact the availability of non-medical products across the country,” said JS Shinde, president, All-India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists.
There is no clause at present under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 to regulate the list of products that can be sold at pharmacies.
One is allowed to open a medical store after seeking a licence from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Bejon Misra, a consumer activist, trashed the move. “The government should encourage more competition and choice. If consumers would not get a product from a medical store, they would buy it from some other shop but after facing inconvenience.”
Control of pharmacies comes under state governments, and that means a central proposal can be rejected. “Medical stores get licence under the D&C Act which is governed by the central government but implemented by state governments and state drug controllers,” Shinde said. Mails sent to companies that are likely to be affected by such regulation did not get any response till late on Thursday.