Chemists have finally called off their ‘work-to-rule’ agitation. The resolve was reached after discussions with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and intervention by Raj Thackeray and Manohar Naik. The political leaders assured the chemists that the issue will be resolved as soon possible.

The FDA cracked down on chemists for not having a full time ‘pharmacist’ to sell prescription drugs. This move led to a standoff between the chemists and the government. They were refusing to budge from the ‘work to rule’ stand even as they were shutting shop at 6pm across the state.

Mahesh Zagade, FDA Commissioner said that  ’Stop Sale’ notices have been issued to 739 chemists from January this year after inspections found there was no pharmacist present during the sale of prescription drugs. Apart from this around 790 showcause notices have also been issued to chemists directing them to explain why their licenses should not be suspended. The Pune division, under the aegis of B R Masaal, Joint Commissioner, stated that around 631 shops were inspected and 88 ‘Stop Sale’ notices issued as there were no pharmacist present.

Zagade said the inspections were in accordance with the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and while there are 1.30 lakh pharmacists available in the state, a survey in Mumbai and Thane found that at least 34% of the 51,000-odd chemists shops did not have pharmacists.  He said that at the time of applying for licence, chemists take an undertaking to appoint full-time pharmacists, but our random inspections show another story.

The chemists’ association had not officially called for a shut down, but Anil Navander, general secretary of the state chemists and druggists association categorically stated that it was a spontaneous reaction of chemists to down shutters across the state. The same situation was seen last year when chemists had threatened agitations as they had experienced alleged harassment by FDA officials in the name of tackling female foeticide. Mahendra Pitaliya, convener of the Pune district chemists’ association said there were around 6,000 chemists in the district. After their subsequent agitations last year, FDA had assured the chemists that they  would adhere to a more practical approach on the issue.

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