Spurious and expired drugs
by Dr (Prof) Kazi Khadim Hussain, Qasimabad, Sindh
Courtesy and Thanks: Daily dawn, 8.1.2009
Your editorial “Spurious and expired drugs” (January 31) revealing that 15 out of every 100 drugs being sold and bought in Punjab are either fake or expired must have unnerved almost every citizen. Although this investigation is based on 3,000 drug samples out of a total of 20,101 collected by the Punjab government from across the province but the condition in other provinces wouldn’t definitely be no less awful.
The percentage of figures goes to suggest that worst hit areas would the rural countryside where more than 65% people live and, which mainly because of the lack of awareness is more prone to transactions in spurious and expired medicines. This is also a hard fact that trade of such drugs can not go on without the knowledge of relevant government. The existence of full-fledged Drug Inspectorate under ‘The Drugs Act 1976′ besides, Provincial Quality Control Board and a Provincial Drugs Testing Laboratory established in each Provincial Government for such purpose is one sush example.
Under the Act the Drugs Inspector is empowered to inspect any premises-wherein drug is manufactured and standardised and testied. He can also enter any premises wherein drug is sold or is stocked or exhibited for sale or is distributed. He is also authorized to enter and search, any building, vessel or place, in which he has reason to believe that an offence under this has been is being committed.
Upon enterring the premises he will seize the spurious, misbranded, substandard or any drug which kept for sale after its expiry date; or any drug which is not registered in accordance with of registration act. He will also impound any drug which, purports or claims to cure or mitigate any such disease or ailment, or to have any such other effect, as may be prescribed; any drug if it is dangerous to health when used in the dosage or with the frequency, or, for the duration specified, recommended or suggested in the labelling thereof; or any drug in contravention of any of the provisions of this Act.
Equipped with such vast powers, the Drug Inspector can recommend cancellation of the licenses of manufacture and dealer of such medicines and even lodge FIR and arrest the culprit and produce before the Special Judge to prosecute him under the law. However despite stringent the provision of law the situation is that superiors, fake and expired drugs are being sold with impunity as has been rightly pointed out in your editorial.
If the survey of rural areas is conducted exclusively I am sure that more than 50% of the drugs kept on medical stores for sale would be both fake and substandard or whose dates have expired. The illegal trade of such important product involving lives of people is being carried out in the day light is an indicator the connivance of agencies whose primary responsibly is to regulate and enforcing the drugs act. Now even in the cities like Karachi , Islamabad and Lahore patients are advised not to purchase medicines except from a few Drug Stores who are known for their probity and salesmanship
No doubt the drug laws are archaic and need certain amendments to fulfill the requirement of time but the real problem is more with the implementation and not law itself. Therefore looking to the enormity and seriousness of subject unless implementers are subjected to strict accountability results will be no better then the compliance of existing Drugs Act and even like other laws of the land which are implemented more in noncompliance.
I agree with your editorial that government’s promise to launch a sustained and no-holds-barred approach in eliminating fake and expired medicines would restore some of the lost faith in the medical system. However unless civil society also respond to those who are playing with the health and life of masses the current state of affairs will to continue to stay unhindered for the finally turn fatal.
Dr (Prof) Kazi Khadim Hussain
95/96 Al-Mustafa Town Phase-I,
Qasimabad, Hyderabad .