* No registered pharmacists in most drugstores
* Questions arise over trade licenses
* Lax monitoring by Health department
BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, May 9: You may not see a hospital or even a healthcare centre in many parts of Assam, but surely you will see a pharmacy. In the me of healthcare, opening a pharmacy has become a thriving business in the State, especially in rural areas. But chances of getting the wrong medicine are very high, as most of the pharmacies are operating without a registered pharmacist.
Under the Pharmacy Act, it is mandatory for pharmacies to have registered pharmacists. But shockingly, the majority 65-75 per cent pharmacies in the State are flouting this basic norm. And the State Health department is oblivious to the huge risk this is posing to public health.
It seems anybody can open a pharmacy in the State. The problem is more acute in rural areas. There are serious doubts whether many pharmacies in rural areas have trade licenses to run their business. “People who buy medicines from such pharmacies without a registered pharmacist run the risk of getting wrong medicines,” sources warned.
“Till last year in the State, there were about 7,500 registered pharmacists with diploma in pharmacology. Out of the 7,500 registered pharmacists, around 2,500 pharmacists are engaged in government and private healthcare institutions. In Assam, there are more than 20,000 pharmacies and most of these are being run by traders or simple salesmen,” sources informed.
State Health department sources further said, “So far about 6,752 pharmacists were given license to open medical shops and around 10,000 to 15,000 pharmacies are now being run without license in the State right under the nose of the authorities,” adding, “Till date, licenses of 754 pharmacies have been cancelled and cases have been registered against many such pharmacies all over the State.”
In most of the pharmacies or medicine shops across the State, salesmen at the counter sell prescribed drugs to customers without being aware of dealing with drugs in real sense. Most of these salesmen cannot even read the prescription properly, raising the risk of selling wrong medicines or drugs having different compositions. The fact is that these salesmen at the medicine shop counter are not registered pharmacists.
The number of such pharmacies has now crossed the number of registered and qualified pharmacists available in the State, posing a great risk to public health. The Health department has so far utterly failed to monitor whether pharmacies are being opened in the State as per rules and regulations mentioned in the Pharmacy Act.
As per the Pharmacy Act, one pharmacy can only be opened against the me of one registered pharmacist, there must be a permanent pharmacist in a pharmacy and no pharmacy can sell prescribed medicines in the absence of a pharmacist. But in Assam, the reality is different.