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Getting much-needed medicines an uphill task in rural pockets

Villagers in some parts of UP have to travel several kilometres before they can get the medicines that are prescribed to them for the treatment of Covid-19 and its related complications though other drugs for fever and cold are often available at grocery stores
By Hemendra Chaturvedi, K Sandeep Kumar and Sudhir Kumar, Agra/prayagraj/varanasi
PUBLISHED ON MAY 17, 2021 01:06 AM IST

Villagers in some parts of UP have to travel several kilometres before they can get the medicines that are prescribed to them for the treatment of Covid-19 and its related complications though other drugs for fever and cold are often available at grocery stores.

This situation is especially true in the case of Agra in western Uttar Pradesh and in Prayagraj in eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Dataram Kushwaha, 62, resident of Holipura village in Agra, says, “We have to travel to Bhadroli about seven kilometres from our village for the medicines. And if it is not available at Bhadroli, we travel another 11 kilometres to the town to buy them.”

Ramu Sharma, a shopowner in Anwal Kheda, a suburban town 14 kilometres from Agra city, agrees that villagers come to his shop from about 10 to 15 kilometres away to purchase medicines that the doctors prescribe.

“There are other shops, too, in the town. Villagers come by cycles or other means to get them,” adds Sharma.

Non-availability of medicines often paves the way for quacks to step in.

“Primary health centres don’t have all the medicines that are required and thus villagers have to rely on medical shops in Bah, Jarar, Bateshwar and Jaitpur,” says Bharat Sharma, a resident of Bah town in Agra.

In Prayagraj, people in villages like Sujani, Kotar Harbari, Bisaura, Renga and Kauhat and others in the trans-Yamuna area, too, need to cover vast distances to reach medical stores in search of medicines.

“Many medicines like Azithromycin, Doxycycline, Vitamin C tablets etc are unavailable in medical stores located at Jari, Naribari, Laltara and Khiri, which is a major problem. We often have to get the medicines from Prayagraj city located almost 50 km from here,” says Vishnu Tiwari, resident of Kotar village in Prayagraj.

At Mauaima, a town area around 35 km from Prayagraj city, one can get some medicines at the printed rate but not of one’s own choice or the one recommended by the doctor.

Most medical stores here are offering alternatives, claiming the drug salts to be the same as the one sought by the consumer, locals say.

Away from Mauaima town area, there is a high demand for medicines at nearby medical stores such as Ivermectin, Azithromycin, Vitamin C, Paracetamol, Doxycycline—the usual medicines being prescribed by doctors to treat Covid-19 infected patients.

When asked, almost all medical stores’ proprietors and chemists say the wholesale suppliers are not giving medicines according to their demand and so they are finding it tough to make the medicines available to the people.

Paracetamol, Vitamin C, Azithromycin are not available in some places while in others the chemists are agreeing to give only four tablets of paracetamol when 10 are sought, says Mohd Akhtar, a resident of Mauaima gram panchayat area.

A chemist Indresh, who runs a shop in Mauaima town area, says stocks of that medicines like Fabiflu and Zincovit are also very low.

Though medicines are available at bigger chemist shops in Phulpur tehsil, also 35 km from Sangam city in the trans-Ganga area of the Prayagraj district, one has to stand in long queues, especially during the morning and evening when most consumers come in a bid to avoid the afternoon heat.

“One has to visit multiple medical stores to get all the medicines he/she needs,” says Indu Verma, a local.

Some locals like Radhey Lal of Akdala village allege that some of the medical store owners are overcharging for medicines in great demand to treat Covid-19 infection. The locals echo a similar complaint in Bara tehsil, around 40 km from Prayagaj city.

Prayagraj district magistrate Bhanu Chandra Goswami says that supply of all essential items, including medicines, is being ensured in both urban and rural areas despite the partial corona curfew restrictions.

“No shortage will be allowed to occur. Efforts are also on to crack down on anyone who indulges in black-marketing, stock-piling or selling medicines over the fixed price,” he adds.

In the underdeveloped Sonbhadra district of eastern UP, social worker Jagat Vishwakarma, a resident of Faripan area, says ailing people who visit the community health centre (CHC) in Myorpur block of Sonbhadra are given medicines by the doctor.

Dr Ashish Srivastava, medical superintendent of Myorpur CHC, says, “The patients, who come to the CHC for treatment, are attended and medicines are given to them as per need. We have a sufficient stock of medicines for common diseases and those which are given to the people having symptoms of Covid.”

Pradhans, ANMs should be engaged for rural medicine stock: Expert

Dr Ved Prakash, head of the department of pulmonary critical care medicine at King George’s Medical University (KGMU), said gram pradhans, ANMs (auxiliary nurse midwives) and ASHA workers (accredited social health activists) should be engaged to keep a stock of medicines in rural areas so that patients in need are not deprived.

“In rural areas, there is no need to test all. If a few cases have come in a village, then all fever cases should be given attention as Covid patients. Any person with symptoms should be made to walk 500 metres or 700 steps in 6 minutes (walk test). If they are unable to do, they should be treated as patients of chest infection with adequate dose of steroids,” said Dr Ved Prakash.

He said, “Treatment in village should be aggressive and not gradual as such a treatment methodology can allow the infection to grow and bring complexities. Each fever case should start the protocol medicine as soon as fever comes while those unable to do the walk test should be provided with steroids.”

He said that doctors in the rural areas were being told to make this the treatment protocol.

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