Need to regulate sale of drugs, consumer forum
Selling medicines without prescription is a norm, half of people in a survey have said which also concluded that 50% of the respondents bought medicines from pharmacists without a prescription and 36% never received any bill for their purchases. Buying medicines without prescription often leads to self-medication, posing a big threat to public health while selling medicines without a proper receipt poses a risk of fake medicines circulating in the market as the sale of these medicines can never be tracked.
The survey ""The Perception of Consumers Towards E Pharmacy"" was conducted by the Bureau of Research on Industry and Economic Fundamentals (BRIEF), a market research company and functions as a research partner to various academia and research institutions in carrying extensive research on contemporary issues.
In the wake of the results of the survey, consumer activist and founder of Consumer Online Foundation, a leading consumer organisation in Indiaâthat had got the survey commissioned-- led by Mr. Bejon Kumar Misra, which spearheaded the Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) India Initiative in the year 2010 has written to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to regulate the safe and secure purchase of medicines through all mediums.
Releasing the survey to media here, Mr Misra said the Drugs and Cosmetics act, 1940 and its Rules of 1945 is the most violated law in the country and needs to be strengthened. He said the government has set up a sub-committee to establish guidelines for Online Sale of Medicines which is scheduled to meet on July 8 and the survey can be helpful for the panel. The survey highlights the need for strict enforcement of all the existing law and immediate legislation in place of the existing Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 as well as bring changes in certain sections of all the other relevant laws to keep pace with changing times and take stringent action against such criminals who are undermining the health and safety of the citizens, he said.
""Online pharmacies provide better alternative to offline pharmacies as they are not only more compliant to the law but also provide host of other benefits,"" he said. A total of 4600 consumer respondents from all the age groups participated in the survey with a fair representation across all the age groups. Around half the respondents were in the age group of 18 to 34 years. Off all the surveyed respondents, 88 percent were males whereas the remaining 12 percent were females.
A majority of the sample consumers buy medicines on their own by personally visiting medicine outlets 68%) and about 20% of them order over telephone from such outlets. The preference of buying medicines through physical visits to the medical stores decreases (from 72 percent to 55 percent) with increase in age. Subsequently, placing orders for medicines over the telephone (from 15 percent to 29 percent) increases with increasing age.
Majority (63 percent) of consumers need to buy medicines for chronic diseases and with increase in age, the frequency of buying medicines for chronic diseases was found to increase (from 52 percent to 86 percent). The monthly expenditure incurred over medicine by 86 percent of the respondent consumers is up to Rs 5000. Off them, 39 percent reportedly spent between Rs 1001 to 2500 in a month on medicines.
Around 48 percent respondents reported that they have to visit multiple pharmacies to buy medicines. A significant 67% of the samples have been through occasions where they were charged different prices for the same medicine at different pharmacies. Unavailability of qualified pharmacists to dispense medicines at pharmacies has emerged as another major issue as reported by 32% of the consumers. Approximately 63% respondents donât get proper counselling about the administration of medicines at their preferred medical stores.
A majority (67%) of the respondents recalled instances wherein they were offered medicines with an alternate or substitute brand for the same composition during the process of purchase. Off them, 42% found the alternate brands to be cheaper in price and 37% found the alternate brands to be of the same price. Almost 90% of the respondents showed inclination towards online purchase of their medicinal requirements in the near future. Further, consumers in the age groups 65 to 70 years (92%) and 35 to 44 years (91%) have shown the highest intent to use e-pharmacy in the future. Also, 94% of the respondents currently buying medicines for chronic diseases have shown the inclination to accept e-pharmacy in the future.
""Of late, there has been a lot of debate on sale practices in the pharmaceutical retail sector. However, some of the key aspects of patient safety seem to be completely missing from the market. Not having qualified pharmacists on board, lack of counselling about medicines, dosage and usage, getting substitutes when the brand written on the prescription are not available with the chemist are some of the common practices reported in the survey. WHO has brought out Best Pharmacy Practices guidelines and the pharmacists in India were even trained to adopt such practices but unfortunately neither the associations, nor the State Drug Regulators are insisting on its implementation,ââ said Prafull D. Sheth, a senior Board Member of PSM India Initiative."