As part of fact-finding exercise to know about the drugs Kashmir consumed ‘most’ since March when the pandemic lockdown was enforced, Kashmir Observer talked to 15 pharmacies located in Srinagar, Ganderbal, Baramulla, and Budgam.
WHEN US President Donald Trump proclaimed that Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) might be the cure for COVID-19, Faizan Ahmad swiftly stockpiled what was touted as the “wonder drug”.
In a time of despair, the announcement by Trump regarding HCQ gave the lockdown-laden populace including Ahmad some hope.
Soon the sale of HCQ skyrocketed, even when there was a little evidence about the effectiveness of the drug. In many health centres of the valley, angry attendants roughed up medicos for not making the medicine available for their ailing family members gasping for breath. It prompted the administration to stockpile the drug and make it available free of cost.
“In the initial days, the sale of Hydroxychloroquine increased but then it halted,” said Ahmad, a worker from North Point, a pharmaceutical products wholesaler in Srinagar. “I still have the stock left with me.”
According to the data compiled by AWACS, a market research wing of the All India Organization of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD), India sold over Rs 22 crore HCQ tablets in the first three months when the pandemic hit the country (March, April, and May) against 24 crores in 2019.
However, with the announcement of lockdown on March 24 and closure of Out Patient’s Department (OPD), anxious people started stockpiling drugs anticipating shortages. Kashmir Observer talked to 15 pharmacies located in Srinagar, Ganderbal, Baramulla, and Budgam to know about the drugs which are in demand in the valley since March when the lockdown was implemented.
A majority of the pharmacists mentioned Azithromycin and HCQ when asked about the most prominent drugs purchased in Kashmir from March 2020.
An antibiotic, azithromycin is used to treat bacterial infections including pneumonia and bronchitis. Available in liquid and tablet form, the drug stops the growth of bacteria.
On the other hand, Hydroxychloroquine is a disease-modifying anti-arthritic drugs (DMARDs) known for the treatment of malaria.
Indian firms Ipca Laboratories and Zydus Cadila are the world’s largest producer of HCQ. The drug modifies the immune system to reduce inflammation.
“The sale of antibiotics has increased after the onset of the pandemic and people are stocking it,” said Baba Faizan, owner of Baba Pharmacy at Ganderbal.
According to pharmacists interviewed, Vitamin C tablets have seen a tremendous increase in the sale in Kashmir since March.
Since the water-soluble vitamin is not produced in the body, people are advised to get it from citrus foods. However, many people prefer supplements, said Malik Shabir Hussain, owner of New Sunrise Medicate, Tapper Baramulla.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and helps to build up a strong immune system as it protects the cells from free radicals (harmful molecules). The accumulation of free radicals causes oxidative stress which is linked to many chronic diseases.
According to a research titled ‘The Role of High-dose Liposomal Oral Vitamin C Treatment for Covid-19’, high dose of oral liposomal vitamin C in a drink along with nutritious food helped patients hospitalized with Covid-19 recover faster.
Another common drug sold by a majority of the pharmacists during pandemic is Insulin.
It’s the hormone made in the human body by Pancreas, a gland located behind the stomach. Insulin helps to maintain blood glucose levels in the body.
“Diabetes does not increase the chances of getting COVID but people with diabetes who get infected are at a higher risk of severe disease, complications and death,” mentioned a paper by a consortium of leading Indian diabetologists and endocrinologists.
“The sale of insulin has increased from March as people were skeptic about its shortage in the lockdown,” said a worker at Mahboob Pharmacy.
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI)
PPI helps to prevent acid-related conditions like esophageal and stomach ulcers. It reduces the production of acid by restricting the enzyme in the wall of the stomach.
Stomach acid plays a significant role in digestion but the excess of it can cause inflammation in the esophagus.
“There is a demand for medicines like Pantop and Pantoprazole for stomach problems,” said Malik Shabir Hussain of New Sunrise Medicate, Tapper Baramulla. Working for last 25 years, Hussain said he has observed many people suffering from stomach problems in Kashmir.
While people with minor symptoms of cough are getting medicines due to the fear of COVID, more and more people are switching to Codeine phosphate cough syrup, said Dr. Shakir Ahmad Khan, posted in Government Medical College, Srinagar.
The growing demand has made cough syrup as one of the most-sought after drugs in Kashmir during pandemic, the medico informed.
Codeine is used to treat dry cough and upper respiratory infection which occur due to allergies or the common cold.
Codeine phosphate also has a sedative property due to which many people are purchasing it illegally above the market price, said Dr. Khan.
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