COVID-19 in Mumbai: Pharmacists willing to forego margin in medicines
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In a bid to do their bit for COVID-19 patients, pharmacists selling medicines and injections prescribed for treatment have decided to forego part of their earnings from their sale. They have also urged the government to not charge 12 per cent as goods and services tax (GST).

This comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi requested youngsters to help in the fight against COVID-19. A group of pharmacies from the eastern suburbs of Mumbai, such as Ghatkopar and Chembur, had discussed the idea of giving up their margins and passing it onto patients and their families. Wholesalers and distributors earn around 10 per cent of the maximum retail price (MRP), while retailers earn 20 per cent of it.

They are now willing to forego 5 per cent to 10 per cent of the MRP and keep only the margin required for logistics and transportation that comes to up to 5 per cent or so. “We have discussed this idea and quite a few of them have also agreed. It is applicable for injections and medicines meant for treating COVID-19,” confirmed Jayanti Patel, Director, The Pharmaceutical Wholesalers Association of Mumbai.

The move is expected to bring relief to those seeking COVID-19 treatment. The prices of Remdesivir and Tocilizumab vary from pharmacy to pharmacy. They are sold anywhere between Rs 900 to Rs 4,000. Patients also complain of black marketing, where prices touch Rs 10,000.

Abhay Pandey, national president, All Food and Drug Licence Holder Foundation (AFDLHF), said this move will not only bring a cap on black marketing, but also it will benefit many patients who have been overcharged since the outbreak of the virus. “Going by the efforts of the government so far in fighting this pandemic, we are confident that concerted efforts will be made to extend a 12 per cent GST exemption on Remdesivir to save lakhs of lives affected by COVID-19,” he said.

Wholesalers and retailers are demanding that the government put a lower and upper cap on these medicines and injections to prevent black marketing and overpricing by international manufacturers of these medicines. A pharmaceutical retailer said that there are 6,500 plus retail shops of pharmacies in Mumbai that sell medicines for COVID-19. But there are less than 100 such shops that sell injections of Remdesivir and Tocilizumab and coordinating with the state government agencies.

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