Pricing of medicines unregulated across southern Kashmir

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 district hospitals, sub-district hospitals and Primary Health Centres in southern Kashmir about purchasing of different drugs.

Each patient had a completely different experience from another to narrate.

Prices of medicines bought by patients and their attendants vary from place to place and shop to shop. Buyers said that some shopkeepers offer 10-15 percent discount on drugs, some others give 3-5 percent discount but 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 to understand the price difference of drugs within the district,” said Manzoor Ahmad of Kadalbal of Pampore whose mother was recently admitted at sub-district hospital in the town.

Sources in the medical fraternity say that based medical shops provide discounts on generic as well as branded drugs of their own accord.

“There is lack of price controlling management on the ground due to which the shopkeepers are charging their own rates from the customers. Over the years many drug control inspectors and other officials on behest of genuine complaints raided and sealed many shops in south Kashmir areas but no action was taken and instead they were quickly ordered to reopen their business,” said a source.

Ali Mohammed Dar of Shopian said he always gets a good discount from medical shops in his native district.

“My mother is a diabetic patient. I always purchase drugs for her from a local wholesaler because from him I get a huge discount,” Dar said.

A medical shopkeeper near district hospital Pulwama admitted the medicines market across south Kashmir is unregulated, but quickly blamed the wholesalers, medical companies, doctors and medical representatives for spoiling the drugs market.

“The price variation is evident when companies hire the services of medical representatives who perform the marketing of a particular drug, then comes doctor’s share for recommending the drug and then a shopkeeper manages the margin of profit as per his own will,” the elderly shopkeeper said.

Another shopkeeper outside sub-district hospital Bhijbehra maintained that he cannot provide any discount on any drug even if the profit margins 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 I keep giving discount to customers then I have to lay off my employees,” he said.

Some shopkeepers said that sometimes they offer generous discounts or offer medicines free if a patient is in a very bad financial condition.

“We generally don’t provide any discount on drugs but when we see a poor and helpless patient we either provide a discount or sometimes provide it free,” said owner of a medical store in Tral.

Deputy drug controller for Kashmir, Irfana Ahmed, told Greater Kashmir that the pricing of drugs are regulated by National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) and Drugs & Food Control Organisation of J&K had no role in it.

“But if we receive any complaint regarding unregulated pricing caused particularly by wholesalers we immediately act and take strong action against the violators,” Ahmed said.

“Over the years we have managed to stop nearly 70-80 percent unregulated pricing market.”