Manager and pharmacists of a drug retail outlet run by the Supplyco at Panamppilly Nagar here has alleged that harassment by a drug inspector in the region had nearly closed down the store, but for the intervention of customers.

Pharmacists alleged that the drug inspector was acting on behalf of private drug retailers as the Supplyco outlet provided up to 43 per cent discount on medicines. This was a big blow to private retailers who offer little or no discount. The store was being targeted because of its increasing patronage among customers, they alleged.

This is despite the fact that Supplyco drug stores are short of supply for most drugs notified for new pricing.

The store manager told The Hindu that the pharmacists’ licences had expired and they had applied for renewal. However, it got renewed rather late because of delays at the Drug Controller’s office.

The employees at the outlet said a notice had been issued stating that cleanliness and upkeep of the store was not satisfactory. The drug inspector had also mentioned issues relating to proper display of medicines, pharmacists wearing the prescribed laboratory coat and storing expired medicines in a separate room.

Though these are norms that have to be adhered to by any drug retail outlet, it is not known whether the drug inspectors make a case of them in other private retail outlets.

The Assistant Drugs Controller, Ernakulam, told The Hindu over telephone that there were several complaints against the outlets run by Supplyco, but did not reveal how many complaints have been registered against drug stores in the region. There were also serious allegations against the pharmacists for not maintaining proper accounts and not providing bills even for psychotropic drugs, said a senior official in the Department of Drugs Control.

The pharmacists employed at Supplyco in various outlets also complained of the government’s reluctance to employ permanent staff. “Most of us are on a year’s contract and the working conditions are bad, with some outlets lacking even basic amenities. A pharmacist working at Supplyco outlet is paid between Rs. 8,000 and Rs. 9,000 for 10 hours daily, whereas private outlets pay up to Rs. 12,500 and working hours are restricted to eight,” said an employee.

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