Chattogram is witnessing a drug crisis as traders have raised prices under the pretext of a supply shortage during the coronavirus pandemic.
Drugs selling for prices higher than usual include cold medication, cough syrup, antibiotics, and diabetes and heart medication.
Customers said antibiotic prices have increased substantially. Even the price of popular pain and fever medication paracetamol has gone up.
Kutub Uddin, a resident of Agrabad, said he bought a strip of Napa (paracetamol) tablets for Tk30 – almost double the usual price – because of the pandemic.
He said traders were charging customers more than the maximum retail price set by the company.
The price of a strip of paracetamol has gone up from Tk12-15 to Tk30-40. A strip of antibiotic azithromycin is selling for Tk600-700, much higher than its original price of Tk350-400.
Traders said a supply shortage caused by a sudden rise in demand for some drugs was to blame for the price hikes.
Junayed Hossain, owner of Medina Medico in Hazar Gali, said he had to buy drugs at inflated prices from wholesalers as companies were not supplying products as per the orders. "This is why we have to overcharge customers."
Retailers also claimed wholesalers had engineered price hikes by stocking up on drugs during the ongoing crisis.
"Some traders have drugs but are asking for higher prices," said Shibu Sheel, owner of Niramoy Pharma at Oxygen Mor.
Doctors said more people are suffering from colds now because of the changing weather.
Dr Abu Sayeed Chowdhury, chief of Chattogram Maa-O-Shishu Hospital, said medicine should not be taken for all kinds of coughs and sneezing. "People should be careful about using antibiotics bought from stores."
The Consumers Association of Bangladesh has called on the drug authorities to increase monitoring for checking the unscrupulous practice of traders during the pandemic.
Its Vice President SM Nazer Hossain said the government should take legal action against the syndicate behind the price hike. "There is no manufacturing and supply problem, but still the syndicate raised prices."
Hossain Md Imran, assistant director of the Chattogram office of the Directorate General of Drug Administration, said there should be no crisis because there was no problem in drug manufacturing and transportation.
"We have already asked traders not to create any artificial crisis and increase prices. If anybody defies this, we will take action," he added.
There are more than 25,000 pharmacies in Chattogram, including over 12,000 approved ones, according to the drug administration.