The Maharashtra State Chemists and Druggists Association (MSCDA) has threatened to keep all chemists’ shops closed from July 18 to July 20 if the government does not give in to their demand.
The association’s primary demand is that they be allowed to sell allopathic medicines on prescriptions by doctors practising alternative medicine such as homoeopathy, Ayurveda, Unani and Electropathy.
The association has also announced a seven-day token strike from July 11, where its members will close their shops after 6pm to protest against the ongoing Food and Drug Administration crackdown on the irregular sale of abortion pills. Nearly 75,000 chemists in the state, including 6,000 from Mumbai, are MSCDA members.
According to Dhamji Pallan, president of the Retail and Dispensing Chemists Association (RDCA), which has joined the strike, the FDA expects chemists to honour prescriptions of only MBBS doctors for selling allopathic drugs.
"Not many MBBS doctors practise in rural areas and in slums. When a patient comes to us during an emergency, with a prescription from a homeopathic doctor for allopathic medicine, denying them the medicine could endanger the life of the patient," said Pallan.
"While the law should be implemented, there should be infrastructure to support it. We do not have qualified doctors. In some villages only pharmacists are there to dispense medicines," said Anil Navander, general secretary, MSCDA.
The associations alleged that the FDA is harassing chemists over trivial issues.
"We have decided to follow the rules during the period of the strike so the authorities understand the inconvenience ailing people will face if chemists stop honouring prescriptions of doctors practicing alternative medicine. The question is: should we implement a law or keep the health of patients in mind? The law cannot be implemented as there are not enough doctors," said Jaganath Shinde, president of MSCDA, adding that some chemists would keep their shops open for 24 hours, so that no patient is deprived of emergency drugs during their strike.
"The chemists’ association has not given us any official intimation about the strike. During the inspections our inspectors are only checking if they are maintaining the records as per the rules. We only want them to follow the rules," said Mahesh Zagade, commissioner FDA.