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Ramesh Shankar
Wednesday, February 1, 2023, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

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. As the debate on the issue is still going on, the fact remains that strip cutting is not a desirable practice as that can lead to sale of expired drugs to unsuspecting and illiterate customers. Given the fact that a sizeable percentage of our populace is still illiterate, strip cutting can actually help unethical practices to flourish in the country. It is obvious that when the strips are cut, the cut portion of the drug may not contain the details about expiry date, manufacturing date, batch number and even the name of the drug. It is a fact that almost every day, one or the other product strip size is increased or changed by the manufacturers, including the reputed ones. From 6 to 10 to 15 to 30, some strip sizes are now of 30, 40 & even 50. Such huge sizes of strips are certainly creating a chaotic situation. This increases the likelihood of cutting a strip. Otherwise, the consumers will have to shell out money for the entire strip which is not actually needed for them. Certainly, it is an unnecessary financial burden on the consumers. Definitely, the situation now calls for rationalization of strip sizes based on the therapeutic value, dosing and cost of the drug.

Now, the issue has once again been triggered by a new business strategy being adopted by the manufacturers. Instead of rationalizing strip sizes, pharma companies have now increased the size of medicine strips, obviously to increase their sales and profits. As the size of strip increases, the prices of the medicine also increase. As the issue goes on, the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists, a representative body of more than 10 lakh pharma traders across the country, in its executive committee meeting held in Pune has discussed the issue threadbare and decided to inform the manufacturers to make small packs so as to enable the retailers to avoid strip cutting. Small packets will also help the patients to avoid buying additional doses, more than those prescribed by doctors. The Organisation has also decided to take up the issue with the Drugs Controller General of India. Obviously, strip cutting is a serious problem, which neither the lawmakers, nor the FDA officials, nor the pharmaceutical industry, nor even the doctors can understand well. It is finally the customers and the retail pharmacists who have to face the brunt of losses, risk of consuming wrong or expired medicines, as well as conflicts with each other. The drug authorities should shed its lethargic attitude towards this issue.


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