Drugs, and food can sometimes cause disease or injury. As a remedial measure use of drugs and medicines becomes inevitable which necessitates their manufacturing, distribution, marketing and sale. Drugs, after air, water and food complete the cycle of health. In days of yore, just after administering first dose of prescribed medicines the patient would feel half recovered as he believed in the purity and efficacy of drugs. The drugs were matching the then prescribed quality standards and specifications. The price payable for drugs was much as compensation of labour than means of profit. Values were held in order of faith, honour, health and wealth. Wealth was sacrificed for health and health for honour and all the latter hree for faith. Now the order is reverse with former three laid at the altar of the fourth. Money has become the alpha & omega of all human activity and symbol of rank & status in society.
In J and K the trade thrived so much as to catch the eye of the fourth estate. The drug samples collected randomly by Drug & Food Control Organisation (D&FCO) of Jammu & Kashmir from time to time in different markets of J and K that were found sub-standard. At least 69 samples of the total drugs and other healthcare consumables lifted for testing by the D&FCO, J&K, during 2017-18 were found to be not of standard quality. Also life saving IV Fluids and other injectables were of sub-standard quality. The samples failed various tests/standard such as measurement, weight, colour, labeling, particular matter, clarity of solution, description etc. Out of these, 51 samples were from markets and hospitals of Kashmir and only 13 from Jammu. Four samples were from Leh and one from Kargil. 17 percent of sub-standard drugs were part of hospital supplies including seven drugs supplied by Jammu & Kashmir Medical Supplies Corporation Limited. Pertinent to mention that consequent upon Cabinet Decision No.130/15/2013 dated 21-5-2013, the Government of Jammu & Kashmir sanctioned, vide Government Order No. 329-HME of 2013 dated 22-5-2013, establishment of Jammu & Kashmir Medical Supplies Corporation Limited incorporated on 5-3-2014 under Company’s Act 1956 as a fully owned Government company meant for procurement & supply of standard quality/specifications drugs , medicines, surgical & absorbable / non-absorbable suture items and medical equipments to the departments of health & medical education and other health institutions in J & K.
samples found not of quality
during 2012-13 to 1/2019
National Biological Institute of India established as an autonomous organization under Ministry of Health & Family Welfare based on its largest ever survey conducted during 2014-16 on the quality of drugs in India published its report in 2017 wherein Jammu & Kashmir was put at 21st rank in respect of availability of quality drugs. The report pointed out that 3.4 percent drugs in J & K were sub-standard which was higher than national average rate of 3 percent. In 2018 Pfizer identified 95 fake products in 113 countries which was up from 29 fakes in 75 countries in 2008 which gives a glimpse of deteriorating global medical scenario. J & K has a population of 1.25 crore and thousands of wholesale/ retail chemist shops transact business. The position of samples found not of quality during the last seven years of 2012-13 ended 1/2019 is as follows.
Tabulated figures clarify succinctly that except for a little decrease during 2014-15 to 2016-17 the number of samples found not of quality has been rising whose implications are depressing. The figures are based on random sample collection, whereas reality may be definitely different in view of reports regarding existence of unregistered/ unlicensed drugs, falsified drugs, spurious drugs, adulterated drugs, fake drugs, misbranded drugs etc, in the market. The sub-standard drugs are not only ineffective/less effective but fraught with the risk of exposing the consumer to serious side effects also aggravating existing ailment.
All this does not happen suddenly or unknowingly. It is the fatal mentality that produces sub-standard drugs. Some embolden these fraudsters to endanger the lives of people. That is why without the slightest compunction the malpractice continues. Where cure is impure one can easily imagine the status of health index. This is a dual jeopardy. Paying with higher margin & also for sub-standard quality, unacceptable & deplorable too. Food and drugs are taken to maintain health as prerequisites of life after air. If the two fail in any way, murderers who kill a few persons are lesser criminals and the poor burglars who barge into wealthy houses are not to be much cursed. Their crimes fade in comparison. The adulterers strike all and always, burglars and the murderers hit rarely and stealthily. However, a grand larceny does not justify a petty one. The two should meet measured treatment. Intensity of hunt and recoupment of damages should be proportional to act of offence and crime established within a reasonable time frame. Those who abet, aid, help and side with criminality or the criminals are no less criminals. Nonetheless, punitive action comes second only; preventive measures is the preferred way. Meanwhile Drug and Food Control Organisation, Jammu and Kashmir Medical Supplies Corporation Limited, Department of Legal Metrology and other enforcement agencies of J & K are not absolved of their part of responsibilities, individually and collectively, to stop this repugnant practice. Appellate and the judicial authorities are required to ensure speedy disposal of justice in these cases. Importers /sellers are similarly responsible not to allow import or sale of sub-standard drugs on their part. Man has violated the natural system. It now haunts him in numerous ways; one such is nCOVID-19.
Wisdom is to work for safety that saves. The decision lies with the dealers to arrest the fatal mentality. Heavens will help accordingly.
The author is a former Sr. Audit Officer and Consultant of A.G’s Office Srinagar.