Saturday, August 25, 2007

 

Pharma companies and fake drugs

Pharma companies and fake drugs

Rupali Mukherjee



The pharma industry has come up with a solution to curb the menace of fake drugs being rampantly sold in the country. The industry has sought permission of chemicals ministry, the administrative ministry for drug pricing, to allow an increase of 3-4% on drug retail prices so that it can introduce tamper-proof packaging on those medicines.

In a recent investigation in states such as Uttar Pra desh, samples of popular drugs such as Becosule, Brufen, Sorbitrate, Voveron, Dispirin, Anancin, Cetrizine and Crocin, and cough syrups Benadryl, Corex and Phensedyl were found to be spurious. A range of fake injections were also discovered.

It is understood that fake drugs are not restricted to only rural and semi-urban areas, but are also being sold in states like Delhi, through small chemists who do not insists on bills while buying stock.




The fake drugs racket has spread across various drug segments and states, with the government not been able to check the menace after several deliberations.

Now, an attempt is being made to check the problem through the Drugs & Cosmetics Amendment Bill 2007, which contains stringent provisions such as life imprisonment and penalties for those engaged in manufacturing fake drugs.

In some of these cases, drugs are marketed with brand names of reputed companies with low quality active ingredients or inadequate quantities of ingredients. But what poses to be a health hazard is the increasing number of products with no active ingredients, or with harmful substances. The issue has recently come under media glare after a public interest litigation was filed in the Delhi High Court by Harinder Sikka, director, Nicholas Piramal, four months back.

This comes at a time when the issue has been on backburner, even after a bill amending the Drugs and Cosmetics Act was introduced in Parliament in 2003, which, thereafter lapsed. The PIL asked for the implementation of the Mashelkar committee report, along with setting up of drug testing laboratories and other regulatory and preventive measures.




Fake drugs are estimated to be 3-30% of the market. To understand the extent of the problem, the industry had proposed a public-private partnership, under which 50,000 to one lakh samples from across the country, were to be tested both by companies and government laboratories, and the results will be compared.



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