Killer Drugs


A draft legislation to regulate the sale of drugs in Jammu and Kashmir is yet to see the light of the day. In absence of a drug policy, the sale of spurious drugs is rising which is affecting the healthcare in the state, Bilal Handoo reports.

Kashmir Drug PolicyThe state government’s Drug & Food Control Organization had launched a much-trumpeted drive against spurious drugs in which 2158 medicine samples sold by various retail druggists in Jammu and Kashmir were sent for quality testing. While 119 samples failed the test, minimal action was taken by the government against the unscrupulous druggists. Some of the drugs which failed the test are still being sold in the local markets with the health department officials maintaining a criminal silence. In over 80 per cent of these cases, the administrative and legal action initiated against the accused has not been completed.

The findings were revealed in the recently concluded autumn session of state legislative assembly by the minister of health and medical education, Sham Lal Sharma. “The inspector staff of controller, Drug and Food Control Organization, randomly lifts samples of medicines from sale outlets,” Sharma said in a written reply to MLA, Abdul Haq Khan, who had asked the government for steps taken to curb the menace of spurious drug mafia in the state.

Sharma said 2158 samples were lifted from markets across state for testing over the last two years out of which 119 samples were found defective and substandard. While 77 samples out of 119 defective samples failed to stand the test of description, dissolution, disintegration and other tests, the rest 47 samples didn’t contain the ingredients mentioned in their labels. An additional 4,617 drug samples have been lifted for testing whose results are awaited.

“The lifting of the samples is done strictly as per the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, and the samples are sent for drug testing laboratories in Jammu and Srinagar. The cases of spurious drugs are dealt with strictly as per the guidelines issued by the Drug Controller General of India,” the government had told the assembly.

To check the menace of spurious drugs, the state government has created 95 posts in the health department to increase the surveillance and maintain a vigil on the unscrupulous druggists. Also, 219 unlicensed and unregistered shops were closed from 2010. Besides, 639 licenses have been cancelled. However, questions arise about the quantum of action taken by the government in such cases.

For instance, the manufacturer of Menthocare-D syrup was banned for just two months after it failed to meet the quality test of ingredients mentioned on the label. In another instance, Xinc-20 syrup was banned in Udhampur when it failed in description test. The matter was sent for prosecution to a chief judicial magistrate’s court in Udhampur which directed retesting of samples. Later on, the license of firm was suspended for just one month.

“Action taken in most of these cases ranges from suspension of license for a brief period of time, which will help in containing the growing market of spurious drugs in the state,” Dr Iqbal Fazili, a medical practitioner at Gousia Hospital in summer capital, Srinagar, says.

“Most of these drugs don’t undergo proper clinical trials, which make them even more hazardous to human health. To prescribe drugs of companies like Cipla, Zydus, Ranbaxy or others isn’t worrisome since these drugs are being properly put through clinical trials. But most doctors who prescribe drugs of unknown brands are simply making patients experimental tools,” he said. Some Ayurvedic drugs like Kamini Vidrwan were found to contain banned substance like opium, marijuana and hashish. ‘Recommendations of screening committee, matter under investigation and prosecution launched’ were the three responses submitted by the government in its action taken report.

Most valley based druggists and chemists say the sale of government identified spurious drugs are rampant in markets. “Most of these drugs are easily availed at local medicine shops,” said Shabir Ahmad, proprietor Shabir Medicate at Babademb in Srinagar. Even though the government says that there was a ‘full-fledged drug policy’ to promote medicine accessibility and ensure safety and quality of drugs, the policy is awaiting implementation for the last nine months. The policy was approved by the state government in January this year when it had generated hope that the menace of —

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

1 Comment

  1. Sir, please request the Health Deptt., to implement drug policy at the earliest. In our State BUMS, doctors are practicing allopathic medicines that too in Government run health centres and hospitals. Drug licences must be given to pharmacy known professionals having at least diploma in Pharmacy as of now majority of licences are matriculates (having very limited knowledge of drugs) and there is already mushroom growth of drug store outlets and majority of chemists are illegally self practicing, the result of which is drug addiction, abuse and drug resistance and serious drug reactions. The law implementing authorities must be empowered to book the culprits involved in trade. This trade is flourishing unchecked and it will have serious repercussions on youth and State economy. It may be said here that our State is having second highest per capita consumption of drugs in our country. It is a fact that there is unchecked growth of drug stores in j & K, it is very unfortunate and expenditure on drugs is huge, since there is huge variations in cost of drugs (same salt) across brands, JAN AUSHUDI DRUG STORES, selling quality cheaper generic drugs of reputed companies be started across all State hospitals, PHCs etc. Prescription audit, prescription analysis, and only evidence based medicines be prescribed by registered medicos only.

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