Kerala facing acute shortage of essential medicines

Representational image.

Kozhikode: Kerala is staring at a shortage of essential medicines, especially those used as preventive tablets for post-flood infections, as rains continue to lash several parts of the state.

There is not even a single tablet of 'doxycycline,' used as a preventive medication against the water-borne disease leptospirosis, in stock with the Kerala Medical Service Corporation (KMSCL).

Though quotations for the purchase of 48 lakh tablets were issued to two companies through the Karunya Community Pharmacy, not even a single pill has been handed over.

Similarly, there is an acute shortage of medicines like ‘acyclovir' (that for monkeypox), various antibiotics, key drugs for children, bleaching powder etc.

Even as the health minister claims there is no shortage of essential drugs, the government hospitals are in a severe crisis. Doxycycline is provided to people engaged in rescue operations and health workers as a preventive medication during floods. Hospitals usually have an adequate supply of the tablet before the start of the monsoon season. The tablets are also provided to workers under the employment guarantee scheme.

According to doctors, there is a heavy demand for the drug at government hospitals. However, they are forced to rely on last year’s stock of just 100-odd tablets.

Why the crisis?

What has given rise to the crisis is the nearly three-month delay in completing the tender proceedings, which is a first in the history of the KMSCL.

No company was ready to quote for the supply of 'doxycycline' in the tender invited in June due to a change in raw-material prices. Then a new quotation was invited through Karunya on July 8. A Delhi-based company that quoted Rs 1.06 per pill was awarded the tender for supply of 60 per cent of the order, and the remaining 40 per cent was issued to an Andhra company at the same rate.

However, the Delhi company withdrew from the contract, resulting in the placement of the whole order with the second company. The Andhra company has now informed that it requires a minimum of 45 days to start the drug supply. It agreed to supply only 40 per cent of the total order at Rs 1.06 (as agreed initially) and demanded a higher rate for the rest.

KMSCL ‘headless’

KMSCL, which procures drugs worth over Rs 500 crore per annum, has been functioning without a “permanent” head for some time. Four persons were appointed to the post of Managing Director in the last six months.

First, it was D Balamurali. Sriram Venkitaraman was then appointed in his place. But he was soon replaced by Navjot Khosa, who relinquished the post, citing bad experiences on the previous occasion. Now Dr S Chitra, who was on leave, has been recalled and handed over the charge on a temporary basis.

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