Pharmacists in Bengal request CM to ensure steady supply of medicines from distributorsPTI | Kolkata | Updated: 28-03-2020 18:25 IST | Created: 28-03-2020 18:17 IST
Pharmacists in West Bengal have written to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee requesting her to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicines from distributors, amid the lockdown imposed by the government to check the spread of Covid-19. Restrictions on the transport system have crippled medicine supplies in the state, despite assurances by the distributors that they had stock which could last up to six months, they said.
"This is an unprecedented situation. Nobody was ready to face this... we didn't get the time to prepare ourselves to face this crisis. Trains, buses and all forms of transportation have stopped operating since the lockdown was announced. "Our staff cannot come to work and there is an atmosphere of fear and panic. Distributors have stock that can last six months, but there is no manpower to supply them to the retailers," Sankha Roy Chowdhury, the president of Bengal Chemists and Druggists Association, told PTI on Saturday.
Both wholesalers and retailers are facing a shortage of essential medicines, including those for patients of diabetes, high blood pressure and gastro trouble. Long queues of customers were seen outside almost all medicine shops since Monday, when the state government imposed a lockdown in Kolkata and other parts of the state, in view of the pandemic.
"People have started panicking... many have already stocked up on medicines for five to six months. This has led to the crisis... Medicines for diabetes, hypertension and uric acid are in demand. Those that haven't bought their dose in advance are now queuing up before shops," Chowdhury said. Octogenarian cardiac patient Subrata Chowdhury, a resident of Behala, complained that no druggist in his locality could provide him with his regular pills.
"I am a cardiac patient and suffer from glaucoma, too. I take at least six types of medicines every day. My wife, whos also old, went out to fetch my medicines only to return empty-handed... Pharmacists in the area are unable to tell us when they will be back in stock. This is a scary situation," Chowdhury said.
West Bengal currently has 40,000 registered stockists and retailers, of which 7,000 cater to the city. "I don't have metformin, ranitidine in stock. Diabetic pens and syringes are also no longer available," Rahul Agarwal, a medicine shop owner on Bidhan Sarani said.
Bodishatta Dasgupta, a wholesaler in the New Alipore area in south Kolkata, said he works alone all day, as his staffers have taken leave. "I had placed orders for medicines last week but distributors couldn't assure me about the delivery... Now there's a huge demand from my customers and I'm working all alone, Dasgupta said.
The situation is no different in other districts of the state, the president of the Bengal Chemists and Druggists Association said. "Stockists in Purulia town don't have the mode of supplying medicines to retailers or distributors... The scenario is the same in the Hills, too," he added.
Chowdhury sought the intervention of the administration and the central agencies for resolving the crisis. "We have spoken to the administration, central bodies so that interstate transportation is allowed without hiccups.
We have also spoken to state government officials asking them to arrange for the transportation... We have written to the chief minister and have been assured that the matter will be resolved," he added. Incidentally, most distributors and stockists at Mehta Building, the wholesale medicine hub in the city, have shut shops, after employees stopped coming to work in view of the lockdown.
Meanwhile, sources in the health department said the state government has decided to issue passes for those engaged with essential services, including pharmacists, to ensure hassle-free travel to their workplaces. "We are hopeful that passes if issued, will solve problems we are currently facing to reach markets and shops," Asutosh Singh, the president of Bagri Market Central Kolkata Traders Welfare Association, said.