Wednesday June 29, 2022

Deadly drugs

By Editorial Board
April 23, 2018

Punjab has a medical drugs problem – and it is a serious one. Already, there have been a number of health scandals over the last five years involving spurious drugs. Now, the Drug Testing Laboratory of Punjab has undertaken rigorous testing of medicines available at primary, secondary and tertiary care hospitals. The results are shocking. Most of the medicines tested are unfit for human consumption. The number is as high as 80 percent of all medicines tested. This is a scary situation for anyone suffering from a medical ailment in the province. Not only are expensive medicines not curing diseases, they could be creating new health problems for patients. This is nothing if not criminal behavior. The question to ask is: who is responsible? Is it local pharma manufacturers or does the blame lie with counterfeiters? If it is the latter, then who is responsible for the fact that public and private-sector hospitals are purchasing medicines from counterfeiters? If it is the former, then who is to blame for the failure to regulate pharmaceutical manufacturers? The blame in both cases falls back on the government, which is responsible for ensuring the quality of medicines available to patients is of the required standard.

One must wonder how deep the racket goes. For now, though, we appreciate the fact that the Drug Testing Laboratory has undertaken rigorous analysis and issued a public report on the matter. But it has failed to state what measures it will be taking to counter the menace. Senior doctors have claimed that bureaucrats are conspiring with counterfeiters in local medicine markets, and regularly dispatch international standard samples to counterfeiters. These officials can rightly be called out for ‘distributing death’ to hundreds of thousands of patients. Some of the drugs identified to be substandard include popular antibiotics as well as a number of veterinary medicines. Some of the counterfeit medicines could cause blindness or increase antibiotic resistance. The details will need to be shared with the public in an easily understandable way as well as amongst the medical community. What is needed first is a comprehensive testing of all medicines available in the market. Their quality should be verified and shared via a mass information campaign for the public. Moreover, there is a need for punitive measures to be taken on an emergency basis. The medicines must be recalled immediately and those responsible must be punished. The fact that 80 percent of all medicines in the market are counterfeit cannot be taken lightly.