Thursday Feb 2, 2023
Thursday Feb 2, 2023

Pandemic: A boon or curse for pharmacies in Nepal?

Most people believe that pharmacies have taken advantage of the pandemic, but is that the reality?

2022 Mar 18, 7:46, Kathmandu
Pharmacies have been critical in providing their services during the pandemic.

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging over the past two years, most sectors had to either be shut down or move forward with virtual mediums. Schools shifted to online classes, athletes had little to no activities, daily wage earners were struggling to live on a day-to-day basis. Nevertheless, it was understood that these precautionary measures were necessary for the time. COVID cases spiked up, especially in urban parts of the country, and each wave brought a new sense of fear to the people. 

The health sector was the only business that remained open during the pandemic.
The health sector was the only business that remained open during the pandemic.

Yet, amidst all this, the only sector to have not been completely out of business was the health sector. Even within the sector, it was the pharmacies that played a vital role; from supplying masks to ordering prescribed medications for regular patients, one could never undermine the work they did.

“It’s part of the job,” says Kritika Bhattarai, a pharmacist, “Our job is to provide people with the medicines and other facilities they require. It’s the least we can do.”

However, what most people do not realise is that even pharmacies were affected by the pandemic, just about as anyone or anything else was. The reason for this is because the pharmacies were allowed to remain open, says Bhattarai, and people thought this boosted them.

“We were allowed to open in mornings and evenings, and this gave people the impression that we were profiting from the situation,” she explains. “While the first part of that sentence is no lie, it is wrong to simply draw up conclusions. During the pandemic, the entire supply chain was disturbed. People started buying surgical masks and gloves in bulk and this created a shortage, not just in pharmacies, but for the manufacturers themselves.

Locals depend on pharmacies to get their daily medicinal doses.
Locals depend on pharmacies to get their daily medicinal doses.

“So when I bought the masks from them, it cost me Rs 10 apiece instead of Rs 5. And when I sold it for Rs. 20, that was apparently wrong. But at the end of the day, is this not my business as well? Do I not deserve to sell things at a profit?”

With the pandemic slowly coming to an end, cost prices for masks and other pharmaceutical items have dropped and gone back to near pre-pandemic levels. There is also a sense of gratitude amongst the general public towards this sector for making life during the pandemic easier by supplying essential items and medicines.

When asked about the role pharmacies have played over the past two years, Bhattarai says, “Like I said, it’s our job to provide them with all this. If we look at a place like Kathmandu, then almost every home has a diabetes and/or high blood pressure patient. Such patients need to take their medications consistently. So, if we don’t supply it, we may have to assume the worst for them.”


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