Beginning next March, 46 notified drugs will no longer be available over the counter: you will need a doctor’s prescription to buy them.
This is part of the Union Health Ministry’s efforts to clamp down on indiscriminate use of antibiotics and anti-tuberculosis drugs – also known as habit-forming drugs.
The pharmacist, on the other hand, will now have to retain a copy of the doctor’s prescription, maintain a separate register of the 46 drugs, and keep a log of the patient’s details as well as the name of the doctor who has prescribed the drug.
The packets of such drugs will also sport a red warning box indicating that they ought to be sold only with a doctor’s prescription.
The Union Health Ministry’s notification to this effect – which adds a new provision, Schedule H1, to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act – includes antibiotics, anti-tuberculosis drugs and habit-forming drugs under the restricted category.
The move is being hailed by health care providers as a firm step to check abuse of antibiotics and control the rise of the cases of drug-resistant tuberculosis.
Threat to small-timers?
The notification, however, is set to burden pharmacists, industry watchers point out.
“Imagine asking a small-time drug shop owner with limited resources to keep a record of customer prescriptions for three years? Unlike an established chain of drugstores with deep pockets, small traders will struggle with such rules. A day will come when such traders will be wiped away due to such rules,” says the president of the Andhra Pradesh Druggists and Chemists Association, Dr. Ghisulal Jain.
“Drug resistance to antibiotics is a big problem doctors and patients have to contend with. The reason for this resistance to antibiotics is the due to excessive abuse of antibiotics by patients,” says Gandhi Hospital Superintendent Dr. B. Balraju.
Those familiar with the issue, however, point out that the challenge now lies with the State drug control agency, Drug Control Administration (DCA), which will be responsible to implement the notification on Schedule H1 drugs.