The Strip Cutting Issue
Recently, there were reports that the Union Consumer Affairs Ministry will soon issue an advisory to the pharmaceutical sector that will stop chemists from compelling consumers to buy the full blister pack of a medicine when a smaller quantity is actually needed. The Ministry’s action in this comes amidst complaints about chemists insisting customers on buying entire strip of tablets or capsules. The forced buying of a full strip of medicine not only leads to medical wastage but will also put unnecessary financial burden on customers. It is a fact that there are cases where the doctor’s prescription is only for a day or two, but the consumer is forced to buy the entire strip. In some cases, consumers buy medicines in small quantities because they cannot afford to buy for the entire week because of financial constraints. For lakhs of pharmaceutical traders in the country, strip cutting of medicines has been a major issue which has been evading a lasting solution, thanks to the indifferent attitude of the drug authorities. In the absence of clear-cut provisions in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act on strip cutting, arguments and counter-arguments have long been flying thick and fast for and against the practice of cutting of strips by pharmacists. It is a fact that there is a lot of confusion on the issue amongst the pharmacist community as well as amongst regulatory officials. As there is no clear-cut provision in the law whether strip cutting is allowed or not, regulatory officials have different views on the matter. While some regulatory authorities say that strips must be cut if a patient desires, or doctor prescribes so, pharmacists argue that the Section 65 being quoted by the drug authorities to make strip cutting compulsory is irrelevant today as it was formulated much before strips actually came into existence in the country.