NEW DELHI: In the wake of rising coronavirus cases, authorities in several states have asked medical shops and pharmacists to keep a record of phone number and address of customers who buy medicines for fever, cough and cold - symptoms similar to COVID-19.
Advisories have been issued in this regard to chemists in states like Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and parts of Bihar.
While in some states the officials have been clear that the information will be shared with authorities to ensure that people are not hiding symptoms of coronavirus, others said it was just a precautionary measure.
In a memo to all municipal commissioners and additional collectors of districts, Telangana's Principal Secretary (Municipal Administration and Urban Development)Arvind Kumar said it has been observed that due to "hesitation and perceived social stigma", people suffering from fever or cold symptoms which might be similar to coronavirus are approaching the medical shops directly on their own and asking for fever medicines.
"It is imperative that in a proactive manner we follow up on these cases which are having fever and other such symptoms which might be similar to those of coronavirus.
"We should be able to contact these patients and get a test conducted depending upon the symptoms," it said.
Kumar instructed the officials to convene a meeting with all medical shops and pharmacists including respective associations and instruct them to necessarily take the contact address and phone numbers of customers who approach them to buy these medicines.
He asked the officials to get the list from the pharmacies and maintain a directory of all such cases and get the tests done if the symptoms are similar to COVID-19.
In Maharashtra, which has reported the highest coronavirus cases, the state Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has asked the pharmacists to keep detailed records of medicines, including Hydroxychloroquine, used for treating various types of fevers and coughs.
The pharmacists are also asked to report to state authorities if any patient demands such medicine frequently so as to track down such people who might be trying to suppress symptoms of the infection.
Several people were buying medicines without prescriptions from doctors and a record of those who have been doing so for coronavirus symptoms will help authorities combat the outbreak better, an official said in Pune.
Health advisories have been issued to medicine shops in Odisha to keep a record of people purchasing flu medicines as authorities suspect they could be used to suppress symptoms of coronavirus with an intent to skip testing.
The Drug Controller Administration under the Health and Family Welfare department of Odisha has asked pharmacists to note the address or at least telephone number of the persons buying medicines for cold, cough and sneezing.
"We have been collecting data in order to ascertain the ratio of population vulnerable to cold and fever. There is no reason to be worried about. The data may be used in extreme case in future," M Patnaik, the Drugs Controller of Odisha, told PTI.
In Bihar, though the health department denied issuing any such directive, but district administration of Bhojpur and Rohtas have sent a note to the chemists to this effect.
Reports suggest that a large number of people are buying medicines like paracetamol.
In Bihar, Rohtas and Bhojpur, district administrations have issued a directive to pharmacies to submit records of people buying medicines for fever, cough and cold, probably to keep track of those having symptoms akin to COVID-19.
According to the order, the medicine shops have been told to submit information to the authorities concerned in their respective areas.
Assistant Drug Inspector, Rohtas in a notice asked medical shops to maintain personal details of people buying medicines for fever, cough and cold in a proper format and the same (details of buyers) should be sent to the Drug Inspector on their whatsapp numbers on a daily basis for perusal of the District Magistrate.
In Bhojpur, the district administration has directed the medical shops to write down name and mobile phone numbers of people buying crocin and other paracetamol tablets.
They have been instructed to furnish the details to the concerned government hospitals incharge or Medical Officer.
It also said that even private clinics and hospitals will provide information about such patients coming to them with symptoms of fever, cold and cough to the concerned government hospital.
Odisha Drug Controller said chemists outlets are sending the required data to different area Drug Inspectors.
"We know fever, cold and cough are seasonal disease. The people should cooperate and open up," she said adding urban local bodies' help is also taken to make medicine shops aware about coronavirus.
A chemist outlet owner in IRC village in Bhubaneswar said, "Yes we have been sending address and phone numbers of the people purchasing medicines for cold and cough to the department.
People have no hesitation in sharing their phone numbers." This apart, Patnaik said the Drug Controller Administration has already restricted sale of certain medicines like Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin.
The chemist outlets are directed not to sell such medicines without doctors prescription, she said.
Anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine is in much demand for management of COVID-19 cases.