Pharmacists to protest at Jantar Mantar against amendment of Schedule K of Drugs and Cosmetics Act
New Delhi: The Indian Pharmacist Association (IPA) has decided to conduct a protest on November 29 at Jantar Mantar against the recent draft to amend Schedule K of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act to empower community health workers to store and dispense drugs which would allegedly lead to the end of the pharmacy profession.
The protest will be backed by the National Level Associations and State Level Associations of almost all the states.
The protest comes in a wake of the central government's move to permit many allied healthcare practitioners including Community Health Officers, Nurses, Auxiliary Nurse Midwives and Lady Health Visitors to store and dispense drugs without the need for license under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, the pharmacist fraternity had seen red.
As per the latest draft rules proposed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) which was made public via Gazette Notification dated November 6 2019;
In the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, in Schedule K, against serial number 23, for the entries under the column "Class of Drugs", the following shall be substituted, namely:―
"Drugs supplied by (i) Health Functionaries including Community Health Officers, Nurses, Auxiliary Nurse Midwives and Lady Health Visitors attached to Primary Health Centres/ Sub-Centres/ Health & Wellness Centres in rural and urban areas, (ii) Community Health Volunteers such as Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) under the National Health Mission, and (iii) Anganwadi Workers."
However, the draft triggered various associations of pharmacists in the country including the IPA that has recently written to the Union Health Ministry opposing the draft rules.
In its letter, IPA pointed out that according to Section 42 of the Pharmacy Act, 1948,
"No person other than a registered pharmacist shall compound, prepare, mix or dispense any medicine on the prescription of a medical practitioner. Whoever contravenes the provisions shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or with fine or with both."
Rule 123 of Drugs and Cosmetic Act exempt ONLY DRUGS SPECIFIED IN SCHEDULE K from the provisions of Chapter IV of the Act and the Rules made thereunder. NO EXEMPTION is given to any person other than a Registered Pharmacist. Therefore, serial number 23 under the column "Class of Drugs" under the Drugs and Cosmetic Rules, 945 is ILLEGAL and UNETHICAL and need to be deleted completely, the letter read.
IPA further highlighted that Schedule K exempt only the provisions of Chapter IV of the Act and Rules thereunder, which required them to be covered by a sale licence. It means that the only requirement of obtaining a sale licence is exempted and requirement of a Registered Pharmacist is nowhere exempted.
"These amendments will not only violate the Drugs and Cosmetic Act, Pharmacy Act but also Article 16, Article 21 and Article 47 of the Indian Constitution," The letter added.
"The Government is once again trying to deprive the pharmacists with their fundamental right to practice their profession for earning their livelihood, although the National Health Policy 2017 suggested for including pharmacists also for developing mid-level practitioners for rural areas i.e. Community Health Officer," said Bhupendra Kumar, General Secretary, IPA
The association further criticised the draft for the adverse impact of it on the profession of pharmacy that includes chances of loss of employment, safety issues while dispensing drugs, the possibility of deterioration of potency of medicines due to ignorance of Storage conditions by non-competent staff, Increase in antibiotic resistance and new generation of antibiotic will also be ineffective after sometime.