Fayaz Ahmed Azad, president J&K Chemist and Drug Association, tells Syed Asma that there is no way to check the quality of drugs in Kashmir
Kashmir Life (KL): It is said that because of spurious drugs supplied by the state’s health department thousands of deaths happened at two main hospitals in Kashmir. How far is it true?
Fayaz Ahmed Azad (FAA): Yes it was reported in the newspapers, spurious drugs have been responsible for many fatalities in the government hospitals. But it is pertinent to mention that more than spurious drugs it is spurious injectables that cause instant death. Besides, lack of infrastructure including proper refrigeration, availability of ventilators etc. and may be negligence of doctors would be other reasons for fatalities.
KL: It was reported in the media that most of the spurious drugs were supplied by the state government’s health department. What is the procedure they follow while getting the medicine viz-a-viz checks and proper testing?
FAA: Yes, the supplies were from the government hospital and it is the government which is responsible for it.
We [private pharmaceutical companies] may have some black sheep among us too, but this time it was not our fault.
We don’t have proper infrastructure available for the testing of drugs, so, what would they use? Besides, the major problem with the drug purchasing in government hospitals is that while floating the tenders for their consignment they encourage L1 [least quality] rather than Q1 [high quality]. When a government officer has raised his standard from a normal Maruti Gypsy to Boleros and Fortuners, why then the quality of our medicine is not raised?
KL: What are the procedures used by private local pharmaceutical companies for testing drugs? Do they follow any?
FAA: When there is no infrastructure available in the state what procedures of testing would we follow, but yes we in the association have made it a point that we ask for analytical reports from the pharmaceutical companies from whom we purchase drugs. But the local pharmaceutical companies were never caught doing wrong. It is the government hospital which was supplying spurious drugs.
KL: What is the status of required test labs in Kashmir?
FAA: We have only one in Dalgate, Srinagar but that is not up to the mark and still sends the products [medicines] for testing to the other states in India. We have repeatedly requested government to provide us with a better infrastructure so that we can check or may cross check the analytic reports sent by the marketing companies of the drugs. Besides, people should also cooperate with the proper system and its functioning. The public is required to get receipts while purchasing the drugs from any chemists along batch number etc. so that we can trace that culprit.
KL: There was a single purchase committee for procuring drugs but Kashmir received fake drugs while Jammu did not. Any particular reason?
FAA: Yes I too have heard so. I am not a political guy that I can comment over it but yes I have heard about it. It should be properly investigated and looked upon with keen interest.
KL: It is allegedly said that there is a nexus between doctors and drug marketing companies. Is that true?
FAA: Yes there is a nexus. It is usually small and less famous companies which get involved in the nexus. They hire medical representatives and offer them 30 to 50 per cent share in the profit who then work on their own discretion to sell the products [medicine]. It is a doctor’s job not to compromise on the quality of medicine he prescribes. It is a business deal. To do business or have an urge to earn more is not a sin but the quality of the product especially drugs should not be compromised.
KL: Government’s drug policy was supposed to put an end to that nexus, then why did your association and other people associated with the trade oppose it?
FAA: Yes it had potential to do many things but had other repercussions also like livelihood of thousands of people associated with the trade, 10,000 druggists and chemists and 900 medical representatives, would get disturbed.
KL: What about the varied rates of the medicines. How are they regularized?
FAA: Government should have a proper committee which would regularize the rates of the medicines. Presently I suppose we have genuine rates but yes we draw our profits as well from it.
KL: There are many NGO’s who provide medical assistance to needy and poor. They too earn profits but sell medicines at half the cost as you do?
FAA: Government should form a proper committee to regularize the rate all over the state.
KL: What is the present status of the PIL you filed after the nexus of spurious drugs was surfaced?
FAA: It is still pending.