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Coronavirus: Bengal’s medicine supply dwindling, steps taken to keep shops open, says Directorate of Drug Control

Residents standing at a distance from each other while waiting for their turns to buy rations during first day of

Residents standing at a distance from each other while waiting for their turns to buy rations during first day of "National Lockdown-21", in Kolkata on March 25, 2020   | Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt

Patients left in the lurch as only 10 of the 500 wholesalers in Bagri Market in Kolkata were open on Friday, cutting supply to retailers

Bhaskar Doshi, the manager of Quality Pharma, is missing his lunches.

“Employees could not come as they are either on suburban train line or had to cross the Ganga on launch boats to reach Bagri market. Both are shut.”

“Besides, they are beaten by police, if they come out,” said Mr. Doshi, explaining why his work pressure increased after the lockdown to tackle COVID-19 was announced.

His shop is one of few hundred wholesaling and distributing points in Mehta Building in the medicine lane of central Kolkata’s Bagri market. With about 500 wholesalers, the market caters for over 30,000 retail outlets in West Bengal and another tens of thousands of retail points in eastern India. But on Friday evening, only about 10 of the 500 shops in Bagri Market were open. Mr. Doshi’s was one.

He said police support was mandatory to keep wholesalers operational, so that the supply line to the retailers was maintained. “If supply line is cut, patients will feel the heat,” Mr. Doshi said.

Patients are already feeling the heat.

Search for medicines

Sudipa Mukherjee, a housewife in south Kolkata’s Mahamayatala with high blood pressure, went to about a dozen shops for two medicines on Saturday. “I got one of the two medicines Strator-20; not the main one, Nebicard-SM.”

Anupam Sen, a chartered accountant and alumni of State’s largest private school South Point, said that many of the retired senior teachers could not access medicine.

“We, under an organisation Pointers Who Care, are supporting our teachers in sourcing and delivering medicines. Procurement is becoming increasingly difficult.”

West Bengal has about 40,000 retailers and 20,000 wholesalers taking care of the needs of millions across east India.

Sankha Roy Chowdhury, the president of Bengal Chemists and Druggists Association (BCDA), told The Hindu that the situation was “somewhat predicted.”

Panic buying

“Patients started panic buying. They stock piled, accentuating the crisis.”

But then that is just the tip of proverbial iceberg, explained Pradip Ghosh, the secretary of te BCDA in North 24 Parganas, the second most populous district in the country. The medicine factories in north and west India have mostly shut down.

“Staff shortage hit them. So they cannot send the medicine to Clearing and Forwarding (C&F) agents in Bengal. C & F’s can’t dispatch to distributors, as their employees are not reporting and 95% of wholesale business has stopped affecting retailers,” Mr. Ghosh explained. Moreover, the retailers of various districts cannot pick up their consignment from wholesalers.

“There is urgent need to provide some travel pass and arrange for the transport,” said Mr. Ghosh. Mr. Roy Chowdhury added that the Bagri market traders narrated the problem to the Chief Minister on Saturday night.

He questioned the Central government’s announcement to provide ₹50 lakh insurance cover to doctors and healthcare workers but not to the staff associated with medicine trade. He, however, said that “police action has reduced after discussions with Gyanwant Singh”, an Additional Director General of Bengal police.

A top official of the Directorate of Drug Control in the State told The Hindu that a comprehensive view was now taken to ensure that the shops were open and staff could reach work place. “Identity cards are being provided and point to point transportation arranged. Retail shops are largely open,” the officer said. Mr. Chowdhury suggested a stopgap solution.

“Patients may request the doctors to suggest more than one brand name. If they do not get one, then they can look for another one. The doctors may also suggest more than one names to the patients,” Mr. Chowdhury said.

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Printable version | Jun 2, 2020 8:03:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/coronavirus-bengals-medicine-supply-dwindling-steps-taken-to-keep-shops-open-says-directorate-of-drug-control/article31197114.ece

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