Home/ News / India/  Karnataka to track sale of fever, cold medication

Karnataka on Thursday directed all chemists and pharmacists not to sell medications for fever, cold and cough without prescriptions, including over-the-counter drugs such as paracetamol, cetirizine and chlorpheniramine or cough syrups, besides keeping a record of all such customers.

Similar advisories were issued by Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Bihar a few days ago. The Pune city administration, too, had asked chemists to insist on a doctor’s prescription before selling drugs to treat fever.

The move will enable screening at the initial stages of an illness in view of the covid-19 outbreak, the Karnataka government order said. Pharmacies, both stand-alone and within hospitals, will have to keep a record of the person’s name, address and mobile phone number, and submit it to the district health authorities daily. “We have told chemists/druggists to report such cases to the respective district health authorities on a daily basis, so that we can track all those who may be self-medicating," said Pankaj Kumar Pandey, health commissioner of Karnataka.

Dr Girish Tyagi, president of Delhi Medical Association, said the move was necessary, given that several people were found to be on self-medication, without reporting the symptoms to relevant authorities. “This could be because they are wary of being quarantined. People with flu-like symptoms should see a doctor. Pharmacists, too, should be directed to sell any drug only on prescription, particularly at this time," he added.

The Union health ministry had recently said that 80% of coronavirus cases were asymptomatic. “These over-the-counter medicines can mask flu symptoms. There may be a delay in diagnosing covid-19 if a person self-medicates. In that time, he or she could spread it," said Bangalore South BJP MP Tejasvi Surya, who petitioned the Union health ministry for a central order on this last week.

Not all doctors, however, were in favour of insisting on prescriptions for popular, over-the-counter drugs as it will deprive people of medicines for headaches and other minor ailments. “Consuming these drugs won’t change the pathology of covid-19 and the symptoms will be masked only for a maximum of four-five hours," said Dr Harmeet Singh Rehan, head of the department of pharmacology at Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi.

Pharmacists said they will work with the state health authorities, but were wary of the government putting the onus on them. “It is not possible for medical shops in remote areas to insist on prescriptions, especially since paracetamol is the poor man’s drug for all minor ailments," said the owner of a pharmacy in Ghaziabad, requesting anonymity.

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Updated: 23 Apr 2020, 11:31 PM IST
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