Over the Counter Drugs: An Indian Issue
Life is like a balloon. Stress stretches its rubber fabric; responsibility fills it to full capacity day in and day out. One thing goes wrong, and ‘pop!' your day is ruined, your business bankrupt, your family shattered, your life – a wreck. And the next day, the balloon rapidly fills – only to pop again.
Life is stressful, full of disappointment and need. Coping with its everyday pressures and responsibilities can sometimes seem impossible. Many run to drugs, some to alcohol, some to family, some give up entirely, and a few carry on – refusing to let responsibilities tell their demise. In the midst of all the stress, our people have discovered, what is for many, a new way of dealing with life's struggles: over the counter drugs.
Though over the counter drug abuse has been around for decades, India has recently been taken with the idea of the easily accessible and addictive drugs. [ref]http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,320805,00.html[/ref]
OTC Drug Problem in India
In India, any drug not included in the list of ‘prescription-only' drugs is considered a ‘non-prescription,' or ‘over the counter' (OTC) drug. Because the prescription-only drug list is relatively small when compared to the number of over the counter drugs, hundreds of potentially addictive drugs (ie. painkillers, depressants, stimulants, etc.) are readily available without the consent of a doctor.
There are very few legal restraints on the OTC drug market. And pharmacists, those permitted to sell drugs without permission from a Registered Medical Practitioner, may legally distribute OTC drugs at their own digression. [ref]http://dspace.iimk.ac.in/bitstream/2259/347/1/397-402.pdf[/ref]
Indian OTC Drug Market
The danger in marketing and distributing OTC drugs comes in the form of unethical pharmacists and desperate drug addicts. Pharmacists who would rather see their wallets bulge than the sick become healthy are mostly the problem.
To add to the issue though, most addicts are willing to match high prices set by unethical pharmacists. As a result, addictions develop, addicts become dependent on OTC drugs, and pharmacist/ drug distributors become wealthy. [ref]http://www.indiaoppi.com/IndiaOTCpharmaProfile2011.pdf[/ref]
As of October 2011, our country's pharmaceutical market totaled at Rs. 50,000 Crore. Currently, India ranks 11th in the global OTC market size. But as sales continue to increase (growing at an annual rate of nearly 11%), India is projected to slip into 9th by 2014.
Regulating OTC Drugs in India
Regulation of over the counter drugs in India is especially difficult. According to the Organization of Pharmaceutical Producers of India, "There is at present no system of national chains of supermarkets or drugstores / pharmacies, and retailing is dominated by small independent shops… Chain pharmacies haven't been able to make any significant gains in garnering share of market."
Because there are no chain supermarkets and drugstores, most drugs are acquired through private drug dealers and "pharmacist."[ref]http://www.indiaoppi.com/IndiaOTCpharmaProfile2011.pdf[/ref]
The menace of OTC in India becomes more widespread every day. For more information on the science and treatment of these types of drugs, view our post on Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS).