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Pharma lobby strikes: on the threat from e-pharmacies

Pharmacies protest as they increasingly feel the heat of competition and regulation

Pharmacies across the country went on a one-day strike this week to highlight their concerns about the threat from e-pharmacies, and the cost that will be imposed by new regulations on the sale of medicines. The strike, called by the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists, had the support of well over eight lakh pharmacies. But perhaps the only thing clear from the AIOCD’s demands is its intention to protect the business interests of traditional brick-and-mortar pharmacies, even if it comes at the cost of the consumer’s interest. Traditional pharmacies have been knocking at the doors of the government for some time now as they face intense competition from e-pharmacies. Their profit margins and market share have faced pressure in recent years from e-pharmacies that often offer medicines at cheaper prices. While this has improved the accessibility of drugs to a wider population, the concern of traditional pharmacists too is easy to understand. The AIOCD has repeatedly accused e-pharmacies of a wide range of malpractices, including selling fake drugs and enabling self-medication. The organisation has been citing these issues to seek a ban on the sale of drugs online. At the same time, pharmacies too have been fighting the government as it tries to tighten the screws on the illegal sale of drugs.
In March this year, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare proposed the setting up of an e-portal to track and regulate the sale of drugs across the retail chain. The aim was to prevent the sale of fake and substandard drugs, which are estimated to account for a substantial share of India’s drug market. The AIOCD has opposed the proposal, arguing that smaller pharmacies lack the necessary infrastructure to meet the stringent demands of the Ministry, even as the same rules apply to e-pharmacies. With the strike, pharmacists further upped the ante by temporarily halting the supply of an essential good. This is unfortunate. The Ministry’s proposal to bring both traditional and e-pharmacies under the ambit of the e-portal to track drugs is a welcome move. The risks associated with e-pharmacies, especially when it comes to the dispensation of prescription drugs without the necessary checks, cannot be taken lightly. However, the Ministry’s plan on regulating e-pharmacies is a rather outdated one. It has mandated that e-pharmacies must set up a “licensed brick and mortar facility” as part of their operations to comply with the new regulations. This seems like an indirect way of delegitimising the business model of e-pharmacies, rather than a regulation that aims to improve their transparency and regulation. The huge potential for e-commerce in the retail drugs industry is enough reason to avoid such unreasonably stringent standards. Source : THE HINDU

IMPORTANT WORDS FROM ARTICLE & THEIR MEANINGS

1) Screws (शिकंजा) - Sc-rew-sMeaning - (a short, slender, sharp-pointed metal pin with a raised helical thread running around it and a slotted head, used to join things together by being rotated so that it pierces wood or other material and is held tightly in place - Nounfasten or tighten with a screw or screws - Verbcheat or swindle (someone), especially by charging them too much for something - Informal
Synonyms 
- bolt, twist
Antonyms - unscrew, help
Example -
 Don't go to that store; they screwed me when I bought a sound system from them.
2) Stringent (कड़ी से कड़ी) - Strin-gent
Meaning - 
(of regulations, requirements, or conditions) strict, precise, and exacting - Adjective
Synonyms 
- binding, demanding
Antonyms - amenable, facile
Example -
 She failed to meet the stringent selection criteria.
3) Ante (कीमत अदा करना) - An-ti
Meaning - 
a stake put up by a player in poker or brag before receiving cards - Nounpay an amount of money in advance - Verb
Synonyms - 
pay, stake
Example - 
We might refer to this as the ex ante demand for bank lending.
4) Halting (लंगड़ा) - Halt-ing
Meaning - 
slow and hesitant, especially through lack of confidence, faltering - Adjective
Synonyms 
- awkward, clumsy
Antonyms - clever, easy
Example - An international agreement aimed at halting the destruction of the ozone layer.
5) Ambit (सीमा) - Am-bit
Meaning - 
the scope, extent, or bounds of something - Noun
Synonyms 
- boundary, compass
Example - 
Her case falls within the ambit of moral law.
6) Dispensation (व्यवस्था) - Dis-pen-say-shun
Meaning - 
exemption from a rule or usual requirement - Noun
Synonyms - 
disbursement, allotment
Antonyms - denial, veto
Example - 
Is it true that accountants have a special dispensation?
7) Mandated (अनिवार्य) - Man-date-ed
Meaning - 
give (someone) authority to act in a certain way - Verb
Synonyms - 
assigned, decreed
Example - 
The assembly was mandated to draft a constitution.
8) Delegitimising (अमान्य) - De-lig-it-mice-ingMeaning - withdraw legitimate status or authority from - Verb
Example (English) - It is a blatant effort to delegitimize the country as such.
Example (Hindi) - यह एक प्रबल जैसे देश का अमान्य प्रयास है|

Now considering the article above as a Reading Comprehension question, try to answer the following -
  • Suggest a catchy title to the article.
  • What can be done according to you to prevent the sale of fake and substandard drugs?
Given below are some words to check your vocabulary you can make sentences with those words in the comment section which will be reviewed by us.
  • Threat
  • Perhaps
  • Accessibility
  • Substantial
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