Negligible testing: Fake drug sellers making merry

Regional Drugs Testing Laboratory in Guwahati tested only four samples last month

BY OUR STAFF REPORTER

GUWAHATI, March 26: A recent finding of the Union Health Ministry has revealed it detected 1,850 drug samples sold in the country as ‘Not of Standard Quality (NSQ)’, while 13 samples were found spurious. With total 47,012 samples tested, the percentage of NSQ drugs in India has been found to be 3.16 percent.

Assam is not an exception in this worrisome picture. Fake drug manufacturers based in Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh and Orissa have reportedly created a large market for their spurious products in the Northeastern region including Assam. Fake medicines are mainly pushed in rural areas here where these are routinely prescribed by quacks.

The problem has aggravated due to negligible number of medicine samples from markets being sent to the Regional Drugs Testing Laboratory here for testing. Lack of testing of sufficient medicine samples available in markets has opened the door to sub-standard drug makers in pushing their spurious products easily.

Tongkat ali roots and bark are harvested for a variety of medicinal purposes and used by millions worldwide.

The Regional Drugs Testing Laboratory’s government analyst and office in-charge Dr Parthajyoti Gogoi said, “Despite state-of-the-art facilities available in the laboratory, we receive very small number of medicine samples, especially injectible samples, for testing. Every year on average, the laboratory receives only 3,500 samples for testing.”

Sources said last month the laboratory tested only 4 samples.

Reports stated that many drugs, including those used for headache and common cold, sold in the country are fake or substandard, apart from contraceptive pills, antibiotic capsules, blood pressure pills and multivitamins. If examined closely, the names printed on such drugs show small changes in the spelling.

Sources said collection of medicine samples from markets for testing has also been greatly hampered because of fund shortage. In the State budget, no extra fund is earmarked for collection of medicine samples from markets.

The medicines purchased by the State government for hospitals across the State need to be tested before those these reach the hospitals. But most such medicines meant for hospitals are also not tested, which raises doubt over the quality of medicines available at hospital pharmacies, sources pointed out.

Presently, the Regional Drugs Testing Laboratory caters to the eight NE States including Sikkim.