Flouting the rules, many chemist shops are selling life-saving drugs, mainly antibiotics, falling under Schedule H1 under the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules in the city and districts at a time when the irrational and rampant use of antibiotics is elevating drug resistance among patients.
But there are several bottlenecks that make the implementation of the rules virtually impracticable, feel the West Bengal Directorate of Drug Control (WBDDC), consumers as well as medicine shops’ owners.
According to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Rules, medicines under Schedule H1 cannot be purchased without the prescription of a registered MBBS doctor. Pharmacists are required to keep photocopies of the prescriptions and cash memos duly signed by the consumers while selling the medicines under this schedule.
Schedule H1 includes 39 generic drugs like alprazolam, cefixime, cefotaxime, cefpodoxime, ceftibute, ceftizoxime, codeine, cycloserine, diazepam, doripenem, ethambutol, hydrochloride, gemifloxacin, levofloxacin, meropenem, midazolam, nitrazepam, pentazocine, rifabytin, amino, tramadol etc.
A consumer, Mr Bablu Mondal, said: “I have bought a strip of antibiotics of cefixime group required for the treatment of my toothache from a chemist shop in the Shibpur area without showing any prescription.
“I don’t have any idea of the requirement of showing a prescription or producing its photocopy while buying the drugs, and at the same time the pharmacists at the shops also did not ask for any such documents.”
“We don’t have adequate human resource strength, mainly pharmacists, to conduct raids in every medicine shop in the state. But we regularly make visits to the outlets to verify if Schedule H1 drugs are sold without asking for prescriptions,” said a senior official of WBDDC, who requested anonymity.
The Bengal Chemists and Druggists Association (BCDA), the oldest and largest platform of around 50,000 of wholesalers and retailers of medicines in the state, is also seriously concerned over the practice of selling Schedule H1 drugs over the counter by a section of chemists.
“Sale of Schedule H1 medicines without verifying prescriptions by registered MBBS doctors is illegal. It’s true that owners of a considerable number of chemist shops are doing so in violation of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Rules. We have already cautioned all our members in this regard,” said Mr Subodh Ghosh, secretary of BCDA.
“The WBDDC has already pulled up more than 10 chemist shops on charge of selling Schedule H1 drugs in violation of rules. We are holding meetings with our members regularly in the city and districts to sensitise them. Today, I held a meeting with owners at Andul as a sensitisation move among both consumers and chemists,” he added.
Experts in pharmacology have also expressed concern over the issue. “Over-the counter sale of Schedule H1 drugs should be strictly monitored in all chemist shops to prevent the irrational use of antibiotics. Otherwise, the number of antibiotics-resistant patients wil increase.
“There should be a one health- approach of the central government to take up this issue immediately because drug-resistant antibiotics are, alarmingly, making an entry in our food chain, it may be through chicken dishes or fish dishes,” said professor Santanu Tripathi, a pharmacology expert associated with the state-run School of Tropical Medicine in the city.