Doctor-Drug Mafia Nexus Halts J-K Drug Policy

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The much-hyped drug policy Jammu and Kashmir government had announced early this year is a non-starter. It has become a casualty allegedly because of a strong doctor-drug mafia nexus operating in the state.

Approved by the state cabinet on January 13, 2012, the government has failed to implement it, as officials in the Health Department blame the ‘highly influential’ drug mafia for adopting every conceivable method to scuttle it.

The director of Health Services, Dr Saleem-ur-Rahman, said the policy had not taken off so far because the government had not constituted the mandatory State Drug Committee (SDC). “The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended 356 drugs for procurement by the state government. These drugs were to be kept available at all the government hospitals and health centers with a view to gradually phasing out all other medicines available in the market” Dr Rahman told Kashmir Observer.

“As per the drug policy, the Health and Medical Education Department had to appoint an expert panel for SDC, which would be responsible for preparing the essential drug list for public sector and subsequently update the same every two years,” sources said, adding that no such committee had been constituted so far by the government.

Asked why the government had not constituted the committee, Dr Rahman said the department was facing some hurdles in setting up the committee. “We are hopeful that the committee would be set up soon to pave the way for early implementation of the policy as envisaged by WHO,” he said.

Majority of doctors prescribe medicines under their trade name instead of salt name, as envisaged in the drug policy. “It is mandatory for every doctor to prescribe salts of medicines instead of their trade names. But a majority of them still prescribe the trade mark names. The government has succumbed to the pressure of powerful nexus of doctors and drug suppliers, which has been creating hurdles in the policy implementation,” a top official in the Health Department said.

“At the government-run hospitals, only a few medicines are being given to patients free of cost, while they have to purchase others from the open market. The doctors prescribe the medicines with trademark names,” a doctor at the Government Medical College said.

The health minister, Sham Lal Sharma, said the government was trying to gradually implement the drug policy. “A committee has been constituted to procure essential drugs which will gradually lead to implementation of the drug policy,” he said.

Incidentally, a raging tussle between the minister for Health and Medical Education, R S Chib, and Health minister, Sham Lal Sharma, over the mechanism for drug procurement, could be one of the reasons for not implementing the drug policy.

“While the Health Department has proposed a Directorate of Procurement, the Health and Medical Education Department seeks an independent corporation for purchase and distribution of drugs,” sources said.

They said opposition to setting up of a directorate seems to be influenced by suppliers opposed to a single systematic set up to undertake distribution and purchase of drugs, allegedly to give the unscrupulous pharmaceutical companies a free hand to supply sub-standard drugs.

“My only reservation is with the Directorate of Procurement which, as per the draft policy, is supposed to function under the Health Department,” Chib has told reporters ahead of policy formulation, adding he wanted an independent body or a corporation instead.

Responding to Chib’s reservations, Sharma had said, “We have seen so many corporations and their fate. I will do away with Directorate of Procurement, but will work for speedy implementation of the drug policy,” he had told reporters.

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