THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Karunya Community Pharmacy, the state-run retail chain to provide medicines at affordable prices, is now charging more than other outlets selling drugs at subsidised rates. The pharmacy’s current profit margin is 7 pc and above for most of the drugs as against the earlier margin of 2 pc for lifestyle medicines and 5 pc for other drugs.
The KCP is arguably the largest pharmacy retail chain in the state with 52 outlets in different districts. It is run by the Kerala Medical Services Corporation Ltd (KMSCL), a fully-owned government company formed in 2007 to provide essential drugs and equipment to public healthcare institutions.
A price comparison of selected drugs in the Karunya outlet on the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College campus with that of the In-house Drug Bank, another government-run pharmacy on the same campus, showed moderate to huge differences.
A 15-tab strip of Stator 10 mg, a cholestrol-lowering medicine, is sold for Rs 59.70 at the Karunya outlet while the IHDB rate is Rs 45. Karunya charges Rs 1,400 for one unit of Cresp 40 mcg injection while the IHDB rate is Rs 980. One unit of Canmab 440 mg injection, a drug to treat breast cancer, is sold for Rs 42,775 at Karunya while the IHDB price is Rs 20,790.
Health Secretary and chairman of KMSCL Rajeev Sadanandan said the KMSCL, being a government company, had limitations in making smart procurements when compared to other players. “Smart procurements by negotiating with the manufacturers may land the officials in trouble during the CAG audit.
Also the KMSCL has constraints in purchasing when the market is conducive,” he said. “Karunya can sell at lower prices but it would be at the cost of transparency in operations,” he added. Interestingly, the IHDB is also a government organisation.