Of all the States of India, Kerala stands first in the consumption of drugs. It is a shocking revelation that of the total quantity of drugs sold in Kerala, about 50% reach the hands of the patients without being prescribed by a qualified medical practitioner. Serious intervention of the Government is required to put an end to this bad practice which will have far reaching consequences in the health sector. It is to be probed why people resort to self medication even though a number of hospitals and doctors are available at their arm’s length.
It is interesting to note that instead of discouraging illegal distribution of drugs the health department has only encouraged it. The department has drawn flak for an activity which can be compared only to adding fuel to fire. The health department has entrusted the ASHA workers, who are not qualified to dispense drugs, to distribute drugs as part of implementation of the control measures of non-communicable diseases like diabetic mellitus, hypertension etc. It is not unknown to the health department that certain drugs like ‘Glibenglamide’ can invite death if consumed carelessly. ASHA workers are now allowed to recklessly handle such vital drugs. They tend to buy the same on account of its relatively low price. The consumption of these drugs that are purchased in bulk without assessing their actual requirement should be strictly controlled.
In Kerala every Panchayat / Municipality / Corporation has at least a Primary Health Centre or an equipped hospital. But the health department, instead of using the qualified Pharmacists available in these hospitals, had entrusted the distribution of drugs to the underqualified ASHA workers. As per section 42 of the Pharmacy Act it is a punishable act to dispense drugs by a non-pharmacist. But the Government amended the rules to enable the ineligible to handle drugs. The Pharmacy Act passed by the Independent India in 1948 to safeguard the health of the citizens has been shamefully sidelined by the Government by handing over dangerous drugs to the underqualified ASHA workers to dispense according to their whims and fancies.
It is not the non-availability of few common drugs that the diabeties or patients with high Blood Pressure suffer from Kerala now days. They are suffering from the lack of qualified hands to give them proper patient counseling and guidance on scientific treatment. Only a registered qualified Pharmacist can help them in allaying their fears.
The health department should initiate urgent steps to stop distribution of drugs through unqualified persons in the name of implementation of control measures for non-communicable or lifestyle based diseases. Health Department should appoint qualified Pharmacists for doing the job if they sincerely wish to put the diseases under control.