When pharmacy attendants become doctors

Mushroom growth of inefficient drug stores in different parts of our valley is a serious health concern, writes Afroz Ahmad Shah. In bulk of dev...

Mushroom growth of inefficient drug stores in different parts of our valley is a serious health concern, writes Afroz Ahmad Shah.

In bulk of developed countries, generally any drug available on the market could be purchased over the counter. India is not an exception to this and the reality is that this country is hub to cheap and low standard pharmaceuticals. The huge marketing of substandard drugs is rampant in many states like Mumbai, Gujarat, Maharastra, Delhi etc.
Several studies conducted by pharmaco-epidemiologist, health social scientists and consumer advocates for nearly two decades have emphasized the need to thoroughly watch the ongoing drug crisis in the world and more so in countries like India. These studies have considered the clinical rationality of prescription practices, self medication for different diseases, the purchase of various nutritional supplements (vitamins, tonics etc.), and self regulation of prescribed medicine dosage.
Pharmacies (chemist shops and drug stores) in our regions are not only sites where medicines are brought and sold but also potential places where information and advice is sought. These pharmacies have turned out to be the budding sites of primary healthcare. Most of the people in rural as well as urban areas prefer these shops to save money, time and opportunity cost of waiting to be seen by a doctor. 
Thousands of pharmacy attendants work in medical shops throughout India. What is their level of training and how aware are they of specific indications, dosages and contraindications of the drugs they sell to the public is a major issue that demands an immediate answer? According to regulations of the government of India, a license has to be procured from the Food and Drug Administration India (FDA) to stock and sell medicines from each and every system of medicines registered with the government. A license to operate a pharmacy is granted only to a qualified pharmacist. In addition, a pharmacy must maintain a refrigerator to store perishable medicines and a separate cash memos for medicines classified under Schedule H, L, C and E of the drugs and Cosmetics Act (1940) and for proprietary, medicines and tonics.
Jammu and Kashmir State is already immersed in a range of troubles and now the deliberate health robbery is deteriorating our existence every second. The substandard drugs made in India and some exported products are being extensively rushed to our state. It is really pathetic to observe such things happening in our backyard. There is no attempt from the state as well as central government to stop these things. How many drug stores in our state have proper license and the requirements to establish their stores? Most of the people involved in this profession are totally blank to proper medical training. They are only there to earn money and that is it. Mushroom growth of such inefficient stores in different parts of our valley is a clear evidence to support this claim.
Yet there is another horizon of misery, as most of these pharmacies are supported by professional doctors and there is a clear link between the two. Even some hospital officials are supplying their free medicine stock to these stores and then patients are subsequently been referred to these pharmacies. This is not a joke; it is a fact and is happening in broad day light. This is not done by some outsiders but unfortunately by our own people. For the sake of just a few dollars, we have lost our credibility to such an extent that we are selling duplicate medicine to people who are fighting for justice from decades.
Imagine a person suffering from injuries in a cross firing battle and then hospitalized. Here he was given some infusion so that his life could be saved but unfortunately he died, because of its substandard quality of drugs. What sort of death will this be then called?
We are deliberately turning a blind eye on what we are selling in our stores. We know what is there. But unfortunately some meager amount in these occupations always keeps one in an ultimate illusion. Every second we are deceiving our own self but the paradox is that we still don't realize the truth.
The medical profession is most revered in our society but the walls of an ultimate trust are shaken up when one observes a mass of these professionals engaged in different kinds of medicinal rackets. It is very common experience that when one visits a doctor, even if suffering from a mild disease, the list of prescription on him goes on and on. You will be surprised to get advised to undertake tens of unwanted analysis on your body fluids and on different organs. Even these doctors will suggest one to get these done from their chosen clinics only. There is a clear link between doctors, pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies… and the list goes on and on. It is true that not all doctors in the valley are like that, but definitely a huge number has a direct involvement. Their system works on a basic principal that more you prescribe, more money one will get and the game of moral corruption goes on and on.  All conscious people should keep a sincere vigil on all these professionals and their activities. Both central and state government should earnestly engage their efforts in the recruitments of different drug superintendents and all the stuff needed for such purposes.
(The writer is M.Tech.(Civil Engg.) IIT Kanpur, India and currently pursuing Ph.D in Australia)

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