Srinagar: The closure of the Srinagar-Jammu highway has led to shortage of some emergency and essential drugs in Kashmir, with both retailers and distributors unable to get supplies.
According to dealers, they are facing “scarcity” of vital medicines for diseases like hypertension, diabetes, cancer and thyroid.
“Situation is getting worse every day, as truckers are not able to bring supplies,” said Ajaz Rizvi, a leading supplier of medicines in the valley. He said some transporters like TCI and NITCO had delayed supply of vital medicines and consumables after the bad experience their truckers faced last month on the Srinagar-Jammu highway.
“Drugs used during surgeries and as anaesthesia are also short in supply,” Rizvi said. “Some transporters have refused to send fresh consignments to Kashmir as they are afraid of travelling on the deadly road.”
He claimed that supplies of some emergency consumables and antiseptic solutions for dressing were also stuck on the highway.
Arshad Hussain, a drug distributor, said that shortage of anti-cancer and chemotherapy drugs like Mitoxantrone has left patients and their families in distress.
“No chemist shop or distributor in Kashmir has these drugs in stock. Cancer patients are suffering due to the shortage. They have no option but to delay the treatment,” he said, claiming that a patient died recently as he couldn’t get the medicines for Myeloma (a kind of blood cancer) on time.
Some drugs cannot be stored for more than 24 hours as they need a dedicated cold chain to keep up efficacy and ingredients. The closure of the highway, chemists said, makes this almost impossible during winters.
Drugs used to combat hypertension and diabetes are also stuck on the highway. “All our warehouses are running short of insulin, oral hypoglycaemic agents, and anti-hypertensive drugs used for controlling blood sugar and high blood pressure, respectively,” said Shafaat Ahmad, a seller.
Officials told Kashmir Reader that tertiary-care hospitals associated with Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar have maintained “buffer stock” of vital medicines for two months, after last year’s experience when the Medical Supplies Corporation failed to replenish essential stock.
Official sources said that the Jammu & Kashmir Medical Supplies Corporation Limited (JKMSCL) has kept extra supplies in warehouses for distribution in government-run hospitals till March 2019. However, they said, the associated hospitals are yet to send a fresh list of essential drugs and other items to the corporation.
“They should have sent the demand list by December last year for 2019, but we are yet to receive it. This unnecessarily delays the process,” said an official.
He said that last year every item was in short supply, even normal saline, dextrose solution, ringer lactate, and surgery and post-surgery consumables.
“GMC hospitals were forced to buy some items locally but that, too, has a limit,” an administrator said.