With the implementation of new policy on sale of schedule H1 drugs from March 1, sellers and buyers of anti-biotic, anti-tuberculosis and habit forming drugs have started feeling the pinch. These drugs can no longer be sold without the prescription of a registered medical practitioner.
The chemists are now required to retain a copy of the prescription letter and maintain a separate register to record the details of the buyer and the doctor who prescribes the medicine along with other necessary details, subject to regular inspections by drug control officials.
Also, the seller has to ask for fresh prescription letter if there is a time lapse between the purchase and the date on which the doctor recommended. Any violation of the new rule would attract penalty. As per the new guidelines, drugs specified in schedule H1, will be labelled with symbol 'Rx' prominently displayed on the packaging in bold red colour with a warning.
The government had banned over-the-counter sale of 46 schedule H1 drugs vide a notification in August last to curb the rampant abuse of antibiotics in view of growing antibiotic resistance in the country.
But those who are used to going straight to the chemist shop to have the required medicine, are finding the government decision harsh. "Patients belonging to remote areas would suffer the most as they do not have access to licensed doctors to write the prescription, said a chemist.
He added that restrictions would make life-saving drugs scarce and costly. "We are turning away patients who do not bring valid prescription. It is affecting our sales."
The Punjab Chemist Association has asked its district units to comply with the government orders. It has been learnt that chemists have started refusing prescriptions which are not signed by qualified doctors. Some government doctors doing private practice often issue unsigned prescription slips without mentioning patients' names.
Sources said that latest restrictions would affect the wholesale drug manufacturers also as to avoid complicated record maintenance, the retailers are bound to keep stock of fewer companies only.
"We will monitor the sale through regular inspections. The safeguards were already there but the government has now made the compliance more stringent," said state assistant drug controller Pardeep Kumar Mattu.