Spurious Medicine in Hospitals

J&K Drug and Food Control Organization has recalled two “sub-standard” drugs worth Rs 33 lakh supplied to hospitals by JK Medical Supplies Corporation Limited. The medicines were tested as fake by the J&K Drug and Food Control Organization (DFCO) which soon issued the ‘Stop-Use notice’ for them. This has put a question mark on the functioning of JKMSCL which had ironically been formed to ensure that the tested quality medicines were supplied to state hospitals. What is more, since April last year the DFCO has found 46 drugs of “sub-standard quality” including four drugs during past one week. 

But despite these revelations, Government has initiated little action against the JKMSCL. Earlier the same government moved promptly to attach the Director General ISM Dr Abdul Kabir when two samples lifted from a far-flung dispensary in Jammu were allegedly tested fake by a laboratory. But even before waiting for its own committee to submit its report within the allotted time  of one week, the government removed Dr Kabir and ordered the principal secretary health Bhandari to take over the department. 

The double standards in the government response to the two revelations of the alleged spurious medicines exemplifies the dismal state of affairs prevailing in the state. While a misdemeanour gets promptly punished, a disproportionately larger negligence and corruption is overlooked. There is an urgent need for the government to hold JKMSCL to account and investigate the distribution of the spurious medicine to the hospitals. 

However, there is nothing surprising about this. Earlier also, when a massive spurious drug scam had come to light, the government had let off the health officials primarily responsible for okaying the purchases while swiftly arresting the suppliers of the spurious medicines.  This was despite the fact that a preliminary inquiry report  then had indicted the officials of the Health and Government Medical College and its Associated Hospitals for  receiving the supply of the drug without verifying credentials of the manufacturer.  Least that the government could have done was to place the indicted officials under suspension pending further inquiry. A similar response to the crisis is playing out now.  Government has chosen to play down the crisis even while 45 medicines supplied to the hospitals over the past year have turned out to be fake. 

This doesn’t send out a good signal in a state  which is called the “spurious medicine capital of India”.  In a speech in Srinagar in 2012, the noted cardiologist Dr Naresh Trehan termed Kashmir a hub of spurious medicines in the country. He called on the government to  immediately intervene to stop the distribution of fake drugs. He also urged reputed private companies to conduct a survey in Kashmir. But now four years down the line, nothing seems to have changed for the better. Set aside the private pharmacies, even government itself supplies fake medicines to the hospitals. This bleak state of affairs calls for an honest and impartial probe and the punishment to the guilty, not the politically motivated actions as this government seems inclined to take. 

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