Pharma body bans discounts, elderly cry foulThe magnanimous gesture by a few pharmacies to provide concessions to senior citizens has not gone down well with the Chemists and Druggists Association, Goa (CDAG) with the latter issuing a stern warning to its members against “ offering discounts to customers”.

Pointing out to a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between retailers and wholesalers in March 2004, the CDAG pointed to a clause which prohibits retailers from resorting "to any unhealthy competition by giving discounts to their customers" and from operating "any beneficiary scheme to attract customers."

Some senior citizens' associations had succeeded in getting a few pharmacies to provide medicines at concessional rates to its members, upon producing identity cards issued by the state's social welfare department. The Forum for Senior Citizens of India had even issued its own identity cards to its 11,000 members in Goa.

Pointing to the stiff legal penalties involved, the CDAG in its letter stated: "Any retailer found violating the above rules will be liable to (sic) strict action taken by the association on the recommendation of the disciplinary committee appointed for the purpose."

"The association will send dummy customers to check if discounts are still being given and if anyone is found guilty, the association will take necessary action against the concerned retailer," the letter states.

Disappointed over the "unwarranted interference", Nelson Lopes, president of the Chinchinim Citizens Committee, who has taken up issues of the elderly often, said, "The discounts were offered voluntarily by some pharmacies on humanitarian grounds. The CDAG warning is uncalled for."

Akbar Mavany, the forum's former secretary general, felt that the CDAG should have supported the "kind gesture" of some pharmacies and encouraged them instead of opposing the move. "While helping them increases their business prospects, such an offer would have also earned them tremendous goodwill," Mavany told TOI.

The forum's present secretary general, Diago D'Costa, said that an appeal to the CDAG a few months ago to introduce such special offers for senior citizens through its member pharmacies was turned down. He said the forum has petitioned health minister Vishwajit Rane to consider implementing a special scheme for medical assistance for all senior citizens.