THE central and state regulators have conducted joint inspections at 76 pharma companies across 20 states and Union territories in the past 15 days. They have cancelled licenses of 18 pharma companies for manufacturing spurious and adulterated drugs and for violating good manufacturing practice (GMP). Additionally, 26 firms have been given show-cause notices. This action is a part of a special drive against the manufacture of substandard drugs, and as part of this drive, regulators have identified 203 firms, with the majority of the companies being from Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Madhya Pradesh. Recently, there have been concerns over the quality of drugs manufactured by India-based companies, with a Tamil Nadu-based company recalling its entire lot of eye drops allegedly linked to vision loss in the US in February. Incidentally, the states and the regions where inspections were carried out included also Jammu and Kashmir which is regarded as one of the hubs of spurious medicines in the country.
Several years ago, the then J&K health minister Bali Ram Bhagat told the then Assembly that he had found 83 drugs to be sub-standard and misbranded in the then state. He admitted that nexus between “doctors and the private pharmaceutical companies in the state, has led to medicos prescribing medicines of a particular company with whom they have tacit understanding”
Kashmir, as was pointed out once also by India’s leading cardiologist Naresh Trehan at a seminar in Srinagar a decade ago was the hunting ground of the spurious pharma companies in the country. How do these companies survive in the region? This is because their products are prescribed in Kashmir. And doctors – a section of them, at least – are culpable for it. At the same time, the successive governments can hardly absolve itself of its dubious role in the process. And if spurious drug companies find the Valley as an easy target, isn’t Drug Controller Department responsible for it? And once these companies are allowed a toehold in the region, it is but natural they will try to sell their products and in pursuit of this goal build dubious relationships with medical professionals.
It is incumbent upon the heads of health institutions in J&K to check the practice and conduct intermittent prescription audit. As for the doctors’ associations, they should formulate voluntary guidelines and sensitize their tribe. To begin with, what is needed is a wider public awareness about this menace so that the doctors involved in the practice feel a sense of accountability towards the society.
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