Ever since R. Ganesh (name changed), a pharmacist, set up his drugstore in suburban Vandalur, he has regretted his decision.
The constant power outages, a daily feature of his locality, give him both sleepless nights and the nagging worry that his essential drugs could go bad due to improper cold storage.
Essential drugs such as vaccines, insulin and tetanus have to be stored at between 2 to 8 Centigrade. But with nearly 10 hours without power supply, pharmacists like Ganesh are finding it extremely difficult to maintain their drugs.
The vaccines, insulin and tetanus lose their effectiveness if they are not stored properly.
Chennai has around 5,000 chemists and druggists, and there are over 40,000 across Tamil Nadu.
“While the big shops are able to buy generators and run their refrigerators, small shops cannot afford to do so. What makes it worse is that in the summer, the heat can really damage the medicines,” said a source at the chemists and druggists association.
“We have been requesting the government to bring us under the domestic power tariff from the existing commercial slab. Pharmacies here are already incurring losses, partly due to competition and partly due to the frequent outages. The government could consider providing some relief from the outages to pharmacies,” said the source.
Drug distributors in the suburbs and districts too, are facing the heat as they find it difficult to shell our large sums to ensure the cold storage chain is not disturbed.
“On an average I spend Rs. 600 every day to store the medicines at the right temperature. As my godown is within the city, I only have to deal with a daily two-hour outage. But those in suburbs have to spend a lot more,” said a distributor.
He said that many small pharmacies do not even have generators. “Some of them who have it do not switch it on due to the large amount of fuel that has to be used to run it. If this continues, many medicines will lose their effectiveness,” said the distributor.
G. Somaskandan, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Pharmaceutical Distributors Association said they had been asking for a fuel subsidy for a long time. “We have not received any subsidies despite being an important part of the healthcare system. It would be helpful if we are provided assistance from the government,” he said.