September 05, 2008

Post offices may soon sell medicines

Besides posting a letter you may also stop at a post office to pop up a pill. Postal department is considering using its 1.5-lakh-strong network across the country to sell over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, including painkillers, medicines for diarrhoea, essential cold and cough medicines and contraceptives.

OTC drugs are medicines that can be bought without a doctor’s prescription. Companies are planning to start pilot projects in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra from the next quarter, Novartis V-C and managing director Ranjit Shahani said. About half-a-dozen pharma companies are expected to be involved in the pilot project.

The move would increase the market of OTC drugs. Major players like Novartis, Dabur, Ranbaxy, Cipla, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Zandu control nearly 51% of the total over-the-counter market. The project will involve the department of pharmaceuticals and DoP. “This may be a PPP project and would be implemented by DoP and the concerned pharma companies,” a government official said.

The move is aimed at ensuring accessibility of over-the-counter drugs in the rural areas. There are about 1,50,000 post offices across the country. “We have been in talks with the government to use the network to sell over-the-counter drugs. However, since different ministries are involved, implementation of the proposal is taking a bit of a time. So, we have decided to start with the pilot project in three states for the time being,” said Mr Shahani.

“While there are close to 4,50,000 chemists across the country, companies are willing to use the supply chain and logistic facilities of the post offices and petrol pumps to make medicines available in remote areas,” a pharma analyst said.

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