A 65-year-old Pune resident, who was in Mumbai, had a tough time buying her hypertension medicines, which she had forgotten to pack.
For three hours, she kept visiting chemist shops in the city but no one sold her the medicine as she didn't have a prescription.
A chemist, who didn't want to be named, said: "The woman's blood pressure had shot up. She was in a bad condition. There wasn't a doctor available and chemists refused her the medicine. I agreed on humanitarian grounds. She was a genuine patient and I wasn't selling her psychotropic drugs."
With the Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) stringent check on sale of drugs, chemists have stopped selling even anti-allergy drugs like cetrizine and painkillers like combiflam without prescriptions.
Prasad Danave, general secretary of retail and dispensing chemist association, said: "We often get requests for medicines from patients without prescriptions as no doctor may be available that time. But with the FDA being stringent, we have to refuse. Why should we lose our licence?"
Chemist associations say the move has hit patients badly and suggest that the best way out is for the FDA to come out with a list of Over the Counter (OTC) drugs, as prevailing abroad.
Though the Indian Medical Association (IMA), the umbrella organisation of doctors, support the FDA, it too feels India should have an OTC drug list.
"We need to have an OTC drug list, which needs to be upgraded at regular intervals. This is followed abroad. We are still at a nascent stage. The FDA's move has ensured that antibiotics and cough syrups are not misused. We are in regular touch with the FDA. We will suggest the OTC list to them," said Dr Anil Suchak, past president and member of IMA.
Speaking to dna, Mahesh Zagade, FDA commissioner said, "Every drug has a mention of whether it should be sold with or without prescription (the Drug Council of India does this). If the medicine says a prescription is required, who is FDA to say no? FDA doesn't decide on what medicine constitutes OTC and what not."