Background: COVID-19 has already claimed a considerable number of lives worldwide. However, there are concerns with treatment recommendations given the extent of conflicting results with suggested treatments and misinformation, some of which has resulted in increased prices and shortages alongside increasing use and prices of personal protective equipment (PPE). This is a concern in countries such as India where there have been high patient co-payments and an appreciable number of families going into poverty when members become ill. However, balanced against pricing controls. Community pharmacists play a significant role in disease management in India, and this will remain. Consequently, there is a need to review prices and availability of pertinent medicines during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in India to provide future direction. Objective: Assess current utilisation and price changes as well as shortages of pertinent medicines and equipment during the early stages of the pandemic. Our Approach: Multiple approach involving a review of treatments and ongoing activities across India to reduce the spread of the virus alongside questioning pharmacies in selected cities from early March to end May 2020. Our Activities: 111 pharmacies took part, giving a response rate of 80%. Encouragingly, no change in utilisation of antimalarial medicines in 45% of pharmacies despite endorsements and for antibiotics in 57.7% of pharmacies, helped by increasing need for a prescription for dispensing. In addition, increased purchasing of PPE (over 98%). No price increases were seen for antimalarials and antibiotics in 83.8 and 91.9% of pharmacies respectively although shortages were seen for antimalarials in 70.3% of pharmacies, lower for antibiotics (9.9% of pharmacies). However, price increases were typically seen for PPE (over 90% of stores) as well as for analgesics (over 50% of pharmacies). Shortages were also seen for PPE (88.3%). Conclusion: The pandemic has impacted on utilisation and prices of pertinent medicines and PPE in India but moderated by increased scrutiny. Key stakeholder groups can play a role with enhancing evidenced-based approaches and reducing inappropriate purchasing in the future.
- community pharmacists
- lower- and middle-income countries
- price rises
- protective equipment