Fake doses, real losses

Food authorities routinely seize expired food items being used in restaurants, both known and not so famous, across Pakistan. That is a matter of playing with the lives of people. Now, an equally abhorrent practice of using or selling expired medicines is likely to be adopted at private hospitals, as per a report by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) in Islamabad. The perpetrators of the crime should be handed down a dose of their own medicine. It is unacceptable to make the people suffer in the name of curing them as the expired medicines complicate health matters. The expired medicines were busted during raids by drugs inspection staff. Druggists tampered with manufacturing and expiry dates of some medicines but the trick was caught through the batch numbers printed on the packaging of medicines. According to a report published in a daily, the Drap staff said this was an individual case and that the matter was investigated by different institutions, including the Federal Investigation Agency. The ensuing investigation revealed that in 2015, the hospital bought medicines with bogus receipts and forged dates of manufacturing and expiry.

Other than private hospitals, public hospitals are also not immune to the curse of ‘poor quality or substandard’ medicines being supplied to patients. The medicine sector needs a vibrant system of vigilance as complaints of overcharging the patients are also on the rise. Besides that many unregistered pharmas have mushroomed manufacturing alternative drugs because of their low cost and high profits and demand. Even though Drap has powers to regulate prices, but pharmas often flout the rules and mention prices of their own choice on medicines. Moreover, doctors, for the sake of petty benefits from pharmaceutical companies, prescribe drugs that are the combination of two or three medicines or creams. According to the Drap report, 534 nutrition/alternative medicines were analysed in provincial drug laboratories in the first five months of 2016. The results were alarming: the medicines had ingredients which could damage public health.

The share of unregulated or illegally manufactured food supplements, neutraceuticals, infant and baby formulae and herbal medicinal products into market is also large. Coming to the regulated pharmas and supply chains, over the past two years, an unprecedented hike in the prices of medicines has been seen, much under successive governments’ protection. Drugs manufacturers cite devaluation of currency and price hike of raw material in the international market. It is high time that the drug sector is regularly monitored and illegal units busted. *

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