While the J&K Medical Supplies Corporation Limited is under fire over alleged procurement of substandard drugs for the state-run hospitals, the State Government continues to maintain a silence over the critical issue which is risking the health of thousands of patients.
The government had set-up the JKMSCL to ensure standard drug supply to the state-run hospitals and also maintain a transparency in the purchase of medical equipment. But the entire process has now come under scanner, with several drug samples tested by the DFCO found to be "not of standard quality." In the past one week, four drug samples, out of 14 tested, were found to be substandard. These included antibiotics which are categorized as life-saving drugs, sources said.
Since April last year, the DFCO has found 46 of tested drugs as "not of standard quality."
"The concern here is that the organization set-up by the government itself to ensure safe and quality drugs has come under radar for supplying substandard drugs to the hospitals. This is being confirmed by none other than another government organization—the Drug and Food Control Organisation," said a senior official of J&K's Health department.
While the JKMSCL has been asserting that the drugs supplied to the hospitals were of "standard quality" and had been "declared of standard quality twice by two certified labs of the National Accreditation Board of Laboratories", the DFCO has stood by the outcome of its investigations which have shown these drugs to be spurious.
Officials in DFCO said their role in JKMSCL supplies was only supervisory as the Corporation was mandated to get each and every batch of medicine procured tested from laboratories accredited by the National Accreditation Board of Laboratories.
"But the fact that in the past few months a number of cases about substandard drugs have come to fore shows gross lapses in quality control," an official said.
In early January, a serious case of antibiotic injections mixed with steroid injections was reported from GB Pant Children's Hospital in Srinagar, following which 19,000 vials—the JKMSCL supply—had to be recalled.
Presently, officials said medicine worth Rs 33 lakh of the drugs found substandard had been supplied to the hospitals and a portion of it might have already being used before the stop-use notice was issued.
"The onus is on the government to explain how it is allowing procurement and supply of substandard drugs by the JKMSCL to the state hospitals," a senior official in Medical Education Department said.
While the State Health department headed by Minister Bali Bhagat continues to maintain silence over the issue of procurement of substandard drugs by the JKMSCL, doctors have set the alarm bells ringing, arguing that the supply of sub-standard drugs could create havoc for healthcare in J&K.
"The irony is that quality of medicines is being compromised at the cost of patients' health and the government which had set up the Corporation with much hype is refusing to act despite reports coming to fore about substandard drugs," said a senior doctor.
The Health Minister and concerned Commissioner/Secretary MK Bhandari didn't respond to repeated calls from Greater Kashmir.