Bandhs bring down medicine supply

Shashi Dhungel

Kathmandu, May 20:

Supply of medicines and other medical accessories have been halted in the valley due to the recent bandh and blockades called by the Maoists.

Although, consumers are yet to feel the pinch as most shops have been stocking medicines for bandhs, a slow short supply in medicines is building up with bandhs and continuing blockades in many areas outside the valley.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers are suffering from the lack of supply of raw materials for production of medicines. On the other hand, they are unable to supply finished products (medicines) which have been lying in their godown.

"Like all other industries, pharmaceutical industries also require raw material and with the ongoing Maoist blockades, production will certainly be affected resulting in inadequate supply. We would be forced to stop production as we are running out of raw materials," said Hari Bhakta Sharma, executive director of Deurali Janata Pharmaceuticals. Sharma also reckoned that the frequent bandhs and blockades are likely to cut down production of pharmaceuticals by 15 to 20 per cent this year.

Medicine shops and pharmacies are also suffering from reduced supply of medicines and often have to turn away customers. "Since supply is disturbed, we have to depend on our limited stock. If this kind of a situation prevails for some more time, then we would certainly run out of stock. There is even chances that we would have to close our shops," said Laxman Karmacharya of Shree Ram Pharma, Maharajgunj.

"We have to recommend buyers to buy an alternative brand of medicines instead of what they are searching. It depends on the buyer whether he agrees to such a suggestion. Buyers also rarely have an option as they are unlikely to find a particular medicine in other shops too," Karmacharya said, adding that pharmacies are sceptical about when they will be able to replace certain medicines.

Patients suffering from diabetes, hyper-tension and neural ailments who need prolonged medication on a daily basis are likely to suffer most. Poor patients who are unable to buy drugs in large quantities are likely to be worst hit.

Vijay Kumar Dugar, vice-chairman and managing director of H C Dugar Group said, "Due to frequent bandhs, factories are compelled to close down and hence production has also gone down. We have taken some corrective measures to regulate smooth supply of medicines by opening depots in various places. We dispatch medicines from these points when there is no bandh or blockade."

Like all other players, Dugar also waits for a favourable time to get raw materials and supply products from his factories. For some medicines, we have sufficient stocks that can meet demand for few months. For some other, we could run out of stock in no time, he added.

Officials at Bir Hospital claim that they have enough stock or supply of essential supplies like life-saving drugs and blood to meet to the need for the moment and are not much worried with the situation. However, they are also likely to be affected if blockade and bandhs continue much longer, they revealed.

"Since there are not many patients visiting hospitals during bandhs, we are not facing any problem on the supply side" said Dr D N Gongal, director at the National Academy of Medical Science, Bir Hospital.