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Bitter pill for Goan chemist shop owners

Pharmacies that are open 24×7 are slowly coming up in Goa however local pharmacists are noticeably unhappy about their entry, discovers Dhanashri Karbotkar

Twenty four hour pharmacies are the latest trend in metro cities. Owned by large retail chains these pharmacies are changing the way the medicines are sold to customers. In Goa too the day- and- night pharmacies are spreading their roots.  Wellness Pharmacy, Apollo Pharmacy, Ultimate Chemist (Calangute), etc., are some of the new names in the local medicine trade.

Most of the 24×7 outlets are presently located in cities and some are spotted in the north Goa coastal belt. Their entry into hinterland locations of the state looks inevitable in future.

“You never know when medical emergency can hit. It could be minor cut or something major that requires immediate hospitalisation. Chain pharmacies provide 24 hours service as we sell medicines any time of the day,” said the manager of a 24×7 chemist store.   

On the other hand, according to local chemists the increasing numbers of day-night pharmacies are not providing any real benefit to the state. They point out that, most of the new pharmacies are owned by non-Goans and not giving employment to locals. Local chemists hint at undesirable trade practices by outside chemists. “Chain pharmacists provide medicines on discount rate and customers will never know how the discount game affects their life,” is the overall view.

  Kedar Jirage, owner of Jeevan Rekha Medicals, says that, in a small state like Goa there cannot be so many pharmacies coming up. “It doesn’t make any sense. We should have some limits somewhere. Pharmacies which are coming up are not employing locals. All outsiders are working in the store,” he says.

  A qualified pharmacist, Jirage is in the pharmacy retail trade for the last twenty five years. He points out that, since the 24×7 outlets have medicines coming from outside the GST is paid to an outside state. “The Goa government is not enjoying any GST on sale of medicines from these stores,” he says.

  According to Jirage, he sources medicines from regular stockists from whom he has been buying for years together and who are trustworthy. “In India where we are talking about duplication of products one can’t trust product coming from outside. Products like vaccine, insulin with life of 2Oc to 8o c need to be transported with refrigerator. The chain chemist who has truckloads of medicines coming in overnight is definitely not going to be maintaining refrigeration. New stores are selling open substitutes of medicines and they are doing this just to make money. In this race for business only patients are suffering,” says Jirage.

  Other Goan chemists point out that, the state faces a problem of illegal sale of habit-forming prescription drugs and pharmacies that are open throughout the night are adding to the problem. 

  Prasad Tamba, owner Sitara Medicals, Panaji, claims that, he is not against the 24×7 chemist shops on grounds on business. “The outlets are not affecting us to that extent. As far as the increasing numbers of pharmacies in the state is concerned if someone fulfils all the criteria then one cannot stop them. The government should impose rules, for instance distance of 500 metres between two pharmacies. Only then will all pharmacists make profit,” he says.

   Dattaram Mopkar, owner Babu Pharma, Mapusa, believes that, modern  pharmacies that operate in chains concentrate more on increasing their business rather than providing good service to people. “They are selling medicines on scheme to people. They are selling at discount rate and cheating people. Majority of them are non-Goans pharmacies. Some of the 24 x7 pharmacies also have their own manufacturing factories. They are bringing medicines in bulk quantity and selling on discount rate,” says Mopkar.

Irritated by the presence of 24-hour rivals, he feels that, they are in Goa  just to expand their market and are not bothered about the local people’s health. “Most of these pharmacies are selling expired medicines by just changing its expiry date,” he alleges.

  A Goan medicine wholesaler and who also owns a pharmacy said that, most of the outside chemists have non-Goans on the counter. “We see there is lack of communication between the local people and the pharmacist. People are finding difficult to communicate with the pharmacist. Just direct sale of medicines is carried out by these pharmacies,”

 he said.

Most local chemists said that, they are not interested in setting up 24×7 chains. “Pharmacy is not just a business. It is service of the people. We are interested in increasing our business but in an ethical way,”

they said.

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