Cus­tomers be­moan clo­sure of pop­u­lar drug mar­ket

The Jakarta Post - - CITY - Fachrul Sidiq

With the help of a cane, 80-year-old Naryoh walked into the Pramuka Mar­ket in East Jakarta in search of the eye drops she would usu­ally buy from a drug­store in the mar­ket to help her fight a cataract.

Even though a se­cu­rity of­fi­cer re­peat­edly told her that all the stores were closed, she in­sisted on con­tin­u­ing her search and only stopped upon see­ing that the four-story build­ing was empty. “Are they re­ally closed? All of them?” asked the res­i­dent of Wisma Jaya in Bekasi, West Java, who trav­elled by bus.

She said she reg­u­larly used the eye drop, called OETM, as she suf­fered from vis­ual im­pair­ment at her old age. “They were easy to find here. Once in three months I would come here to buy them,” she added.

She said she re­fused to be treated at the hos­pi­tal be­cause of the pos­si­bly high ad­mis­sion fee, ex­plain­ing that she did not want to bur­den her chil­dren.

Desta Sa­triyadi, 47, had rushed to the Pramuka Mar­ket on Tues­day morn­ing, trav­el­ing nearly 70 kilo­me­ters by mo­tor­bike from his house in Karawang, West Java, to look for, among other things, an oint­ment called Stero­derm to heal an eczema, which he said he strug­gled to find else­where.

Learn­ing that the drug­stores at the mar­ket, touted as one of the big­gest phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal hubs in the coun­try, weren’t op­er­at­ing that day, he de­cided to stay in the city for an­other day, sleep­ing at a rel­a­tive’s house in Ke­may­oran, East Jakarta, and came back to the mar­ket the fol­low­ing day, only to find a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion.

“I hope they will re­sume op­er­a­tions soon. I’ve al­ways come here to look for drugs, be­cause the price is a lot lower,” said the pri­vate-sec­tor em­ployee, adding that the prices at the mar­ket were gen­er­ally 30 per­cent be­low those at other drug­stores.

Unaware of the clo­sure that took ef­fect on Mon­day, peo­ple kept com­ing to the mar­ket. Some 50 had ar­rived as of Wed­nes­day, said a park­ing at­ten­dant named An­war. The store own­ers have been forced to cease op­er­a­tions un­til they ap­ply for and are granted phar­macy li­censes from the gov­ern­ment.

Most of the reg­u­lar cus­tomers, who would typ­i­cally visit the mar­ket to buy generic drugs or herbal medicine paid for out of pocket, lament the clo­sure.

The gov­ern­ment’s uni­ver­sal health in­sur­ance pro­gram JKN, launched a few years ago and man­aged by the Health Care and So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency (BPJS Ke­se­hatan), does not cover ex­penses for many kinds of drugs.

The phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal hub, es­tab­lished in the 1970s, housed 403 kiosks and around 250 ven­dors. It is known as the Peo­ple’s Phar­macy due to its af­ford­able prices and a wide range of drugs dif­fi­cult to find at reg­u­lar phar­ma­cies. Their busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties were backed by Health Min­istry Reg­u­la­tion No. 284/2007 on pub­lic phar­ma­cies, which al­lowed them to sell drugs to the pub­lic like a li­censed phar­macy.

How­ever, fol­low­ing the emer­gence of fake vac­cines, the Health Min­istry re­voked the reg­u­la­tion in Oc­to­ber last year to tighten con­trol over drugs cir­cu­lat­ing in the coun­try, de­priv­ing the drug­stores at the mar­ket of their le­gal ba­sis.

The store own­ers had been given time un­til June this year to ap­ply for phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal li­censes, but had only re­cently be­gun to sub­mit the nec­es­sary doc­u­ments, Jakarta Health Agency head Koesmedi Pri­harto said.

“Their op­er­a­tions are not le­gal now. If they con­tinue op­er­a­tions, they will have to deal with the po­lice,” he said.

The ab­sence of a le­gal um­brella led to a num­ber of raids car­ried out by city au­thor­i­ties, as the ven­dors were of­ten ac­cused of dis­tribut­ing il­le­gal drugs and vac­cines in the city, re­sult­ing in a sig­nif­i­cant de­cline in their in­come, said Yoyon, the sec­re­tary­gen­eral of the Pramuka Mar­ket Drug Sellers As­so­ci­a­tion.

The re­quire­ments to ap­ply for the li­cense in­clude hir­ing phar­ma­cists and ex­pand­ing the kiosks to 4x4 square me­ters from the cur­rent 2x2 sq-m.

“We want to abide by the law, but we also de­mand a re­laxed pol­icy on the kiosk size. I hope the gov­ern­ment can as­sist us, oth­er­wise many peo­ple will turn job­less,” he said, adding that in the last few months, his monthly gross in­come had plunged to around Rp 4 mil­lion (US$296) from pre­vi­ously Rp 10 mil­lion.

JP/Seto Ward­hana

Empty lot: A man stands on the sec­ond floor of the de­serted Pramuka Mar­ket in East Jakarta. Most stores at the mar­ket, tauted as one of the big­gest phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal hubs in the coun­try, ceased op­er­a­tions on Mon­day. Own­ers of the stores have ap­plied for phar­macy li­censes from the gov­ern­ment.

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