Around 55,000 pharmacies in Maharashtra Monday launched a ‘work-to-rule’ action to oppose the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to compulsorily appoint a full-time pharmacist in shops, a top official said.

“Of these, some 10,000-plus pharmacies are in Mumbai and Thane regions, which will remain open only from 2 pm to 10 pm Monday onwards”, said Maharashtra Chemists & Druggists Association secretary Anil Navandar.

This would mean that at all other times, no medical shops would remain open to sell medicines, even if there are emergency demands from patients, he said.

“One pharmacist can practically work for one eight-hour shift, with a monthly payment ranging from Rs.7,000-30,000, depending on the class of city where they operate. Chemists shops simply cannot afford to hire an additional pharmacist to comply with the FDA decision”, said Mr. Navandar.

“The question is dual — affordability and availability — and hence we urge the FDA to adopt a flexible approach on humanitarian grounds as patients are directly affected”, Mr. Navandar said.

According to the Maharashtra FDA, nearly 70 per cent of pharmacies are owned and managed by licensed pharmacists. Of the remaining 30 percent, nearly half do not have a full-time pharmacist available for dispensing medicines.

Mr. Navandar said it has no grudge on this count but the FDA must first identify the shops which are not complying with the law.

“After weeding out the defaulters, give them some time, say six months, and if they still fail to comply, their licence can be cancelled and their shop shut down”, Mr. Navandar said.