I don’t usually get too personal in my blogposts but this, I had to write. A month ago, my chemist suddenly stopped supplying my preferred brand of iron pills. Each time I asked, the reply would be, “Supply nahin aa raha hai.”
Now, I am very particular about my brand of iron for two reasons. One, not all salts of iron agree equally well with all women. The wrong salt can cause a digestive side-effect that I’d rather not go into. This is the reason why many women, in the past, would abandon their iron supplements – they couldn’t tolerate the side-effects. These days, there are several more options.This brand contained a salt that agreed beautifully with me. Two, it was effective. I could seriously make out the difference when I wasn’t taking it regularly. There were probably other brands of the same salt but as my doctor had prescribed this and it worked, I stuck to it religiously.
Given this background, and of course my own former profession, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I called the closely-held, probably small-to-mid-sized, drug company, based in Mumbai which owned the brand and asked to speak to the brand manager.
I expected to be stonewalled but it was surprisingly easy to access the man. I introduced myself and explained my problem to him. I was careful not to mention my background or even my name. There was a long pause at the other end.
“Madam,” he said in hushed tones. “Who gave you my number?”
“The front desk,” I explained impatiently, wondering why that even mattered. He seemed to heave a sigh of relief. Perhaps he had feared that someone had set me up to this. I’m pretty sure consumers don’t routinely go calling pharma brand managers.
After that, he was surprisingly helpful. First, he told me to ask my chemist for a different brand of the same salt by another company. “We supply it to them,” he said. “It’s the exact same product.” This, I thought, was pretty nice of the man. Then, belatedly, he realised that while he was busy sorting out the supply issue with his brand, I might permanently switch to this alternative. “Wait! Don’t change the brand,” he said. “I will ensure that supply reaches you.”
After that, I got two calls in swift succession- one from a zonal manager, if I recollect correctly, and then from his junior who was responsible for the suburb I live in. GST was the cause for the supply glitches, I was told.
Interestingly, they seemed awed that they were speaking to an actual consumer for a change, and not the prescriber. And that too a loyal, compliant one. In other words, a textbook customer who goes looking for a specific brand of iron supplement in this crazy market, whom they will probably meet once in their lifetime.
One of them wanted to know how long I had been taking the product. I replied that it was probably since they launched it. He discreetly tried to find out more about me but I didn’t let on. I gave a different surname from the one that I write under. It didn’t really matter.
In a day’s time, the man responsible for my suburb was at my doorstep (I provided the address) with the pills. And here’s the delight factor : when I asked for the bill, he told me they were doctor samples to tide over my immediate need until he could arrange for supplies from a trader and he didn’t charge me for them. I got these meds absolutely free. He left telling me to get in touch in case I faced supply issues again.
Now, if I was in a highly-regulated, rule-bound country, I would probably be asked to go get another Rx from my doctor. (I doubt this is an over-the-counter product if it is being promoted to doctors and they’re are still prescribing it). But these folks used their judgement, they figured I was bonafide and of course, they knew I couldn’t snort iron. And they were honest : they didn’t try to bill me for the samples.
I am not naming the brand, company, or the people because I don’t want anyone to think this is a promo. Besides, I don’t want them getting into trouble for violating some archaic law of the D&C Act or for their actions to be misconstrued within or outside the company. Nor do I think this is advisable for all types of drugs and/or patients.
I am writing this simply because I am a satisfied customer.