Prices of medicines sold across southern Kashmir appears to be a freewheeling mechanism, as medical shops determine their own rates without any price-control management affected on the ground.
This reporter spoke to hundreds of patients outside districthospitals, sub-district hospitals and Primary Health Centres in southernKashmir about purchasing of different drugs.
Each patient had a completely different experience fromanother to narrate.
Prices of medicines bought by patients and their attendantsvary from place to place and shop to shop. Buyers said that some shopkeepersoffer 10-15 percent discount on drugs, some others give 3-5 percent discountbut most medical shops stick to maximum retail price or MRP.
"I purchased a strip of antibiotics at 10 percent discount.The same drug I purchased in Pulwama was without any discount. One fails tounderstand the price difference of drugs within the district," said ManzoorAhmad of Kadalbal of Pampore whose mother was recently admitted at sub-districthospital in the town.
Sources in the medical fraternity say that based medicalshops provide discounts on generic as well as branded drugs of their ownaccord.
"There is lack of price controlling management on the grounddue to which the shopkeepers are charging their own rates from the customers.Over the years many drug control inspectors and other officials on behest ofgenuine complaints raided and sealed many shops in south Kashmir areas but noaction was taken and instead they were quickly ordered to reopen theirbusiness," said a source.
Ali Mohammed Dar of Shopian said he always gets a gooddiscount from medical shops in his native district.
"My mother is a diabetic patient. I always purchasedrugs for her from a local wholesaler because from him I get a hugediscount," Dar said.
A medical shopkeeper near district hospital Pulwama admittedthe medicines market across south Kashmir is unregulated, but quickly blamedthe wholesalers, medical companies, doctors and medical representatives forspoiling the drugs market.
"The price variation is evident when companies hire theservices of medical representatives who perform the marketing of a particulardrug, then comes doctor's share for recommending the drug and then a shopkeepermanages the margin of profit as per his own will," the elderly shopkeeper said.
Another shopkeeper outside sub-district hospital Bhijbehramaintained that he cannot provide any discount on any drug even if the profitmargins were high.
"I cannot provide any discount because I sell genuine stock.I also have three salesmen whom I provide the monthly salary of Rs. 6000. If Ikeep giving discount to customers then I have to lay off my employees," hesaid.
Some shopkeepers said that sometimes they offer generousdiscounts or offer medicines free if a patient is in a very bad financialcondition.
"We generally don't provide any discount on drugs butwhen we see a poor and helpless patient we either provide a discount orsometimes provide it free," said owner of a medical store in Tral.
Deputy drug controller for Kashmir, Irfana Ahmed, toldGreater Kashmir that the pricing of drugs are regulated by NationalPharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) and Drugs & Food ControlOrganisation of J&K had no role in it.
"But if we receive any complaint regarding unregulatedpricing caused particularly by wholesalers we immediately act and take strongaction against the violators," Ahmed said.
"Over the years we have managed to stop nearly 70-80 percentunregulated pricing market."