LAHORE: Medical stores will remain closed on Monday (today) across the province as protest against Punjab Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2017 passed by provincial assembly, claimed representatives of protesting organizations.

Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association, Pakistan Chemist and Druggist Association, Pakistan Pharmacist Associate, All Pakistan Herbal Muttahida Mahaz, Pakistan Homioherbal Manufactories association, Punjab Chemists Association and Pakistan Drug Lawyers Forum are supporting the strike. Overall there are around 36,000 medical stores in Punjab with 21,000 in Lahore alone.

Posters have been put outside the medical stores in Lahore and other cities of Punjab announcing protest till the demands of store owners are accepted.

According to Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association President Dr Muhammad Tahir Azam they were not consulted when amendments were being made in the drug act.

He said Drugs Act 1976 was passed by the federal government and it was a federal subject, so all the amendments should be made by federal government.

In recently passed Punjab Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2017, strict rules have been devised for medical stores in Punjab for those involve in selling fake, illegal or spurious drugs.

The bill stated that manufacturing, transporting or selling a temperature sensitive drug that lose its efficacy declared as punishable offences and violators could be punished with three years in jail and fined will be imposed up to Rs 50 million.

According to the new law manufacture, transport and sale of the temperature sensitive drugs in less than ideal conditions could be punished up to 10 years.

The bill was passed and amended in the backdrop of the growing concerns that almost all the medical stores across Punjab where there is no working pharmacist. The Act says there should be at least one pharmacist in each medical store.

The provincial government has said the medical stores with unregistered medicines would be sealed and also charged with a hefty penalty.

There seems to be humanitarian crisis looming as some drugs that are vital to patients of different diseases have already become short in the market. In a survey around the city The Nation talked with customers and some medical store owners it was assessed that the shortage of some medicines is artificially created to press the government to repeal the Act. Patient Ghazala Faraz, a hypertensive patient, complained that she could not find medicine Blokium 50 DIU even after visiting around 25 shops in Ganga Ram Hospital area and Garhi Shahu area. “At last I was able to get two tablets from Clinix medical store in Garhi Shahu. After tomorrow I would be left with no medicine. I will have to ask the doctor to change the medicine but then his appointment one can get at least 10 days later. It is all very depressing and frustrating,” she said.

A diabetic patient Haroon Farid said he has to take Tagipmet 50/500 twice a day. “I could not find it anywhere in Model Town and Ittefaq Hospital. I was lucky to get it here from this pharmacy opposite Services Hospital. Fearing shortage I have brought the medicine for one month. God knows how long the shortage will continue,” Haroon said.

President, Pakistan Drug Lawyers Forum, Dr Noor Muhammad Mahar told this scribe that unnecessarily huge penalties were being imposed by the Punjab government. “All business related to drugs and medicines is controlled and run by federal government. No other province has introduced such penalties for violations. It will badly affect the business of medical stores,” Dr Noor said.

He said fake medicine and those being made under license should not be treated in the same manner. “This is something that is not practices anywhere in the world,” Dr Noor was of the view.

He said the drug inspectors have been given unnecessary powers that might be misused.