Violation of international rules: Health official arrested in ephedrine quota scam

Published: April 6, 2012

Ephedrine, popularly known as ‘poor man’s cocaine’ is a thermogenic commonly used to treat hypotension.

RAWALPINDI: 

A senior official of the health department has been arrested in connection with illegal allocation and manipulation of quota to import a chemical involving Rs7 billion. 

The Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) arrested Deputy Director Drugs Abdul Sattar Mirani late on Wednesday night.

The ANF had requested 10-day remand. However, a magistrate, Shafqatullah Khan, gave three-day remand of the official and directed the ANF to present him in court on Saturday (April 7).

The scam came to the fore last week when ANF officials informed a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry that the quota of the chemical “ephedrine” worth Rs7 billion was given to two Multan-based companies through manipulation on the pressure of a VVIP personality.

The case regarding the illegal sale of ephedrine was registered on October 10 last year, after two pharmaceutical companies — Danas Pharmaceutical Limited and Berlex Lab International –were accused of obtaining export quotas for the drug in collusion with the health ministry officials that exceeded the limits fixed by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).

The INCB had fixed an annual quota of 22,000kg of ephedrine for Pakistan for 2010-11, but the ministry of health following its devolution allocated a quota of around 31,000kg of the drug.

According to the investigation agency’s report, both companies obtained quotas for the drug illegally and then sold it to local manufacturers in violation of the rules.

On the other hand, the two companies have moved the Lahore High Court Rawalpindi bench, requesting that the charges against them be quashed. The petitioners claim that ephedrine is not a banned chemical and does not fall under the control of narcotics substance laws.

The ANF officials claimed that they were under extreme pressure regarding its investigation into the health ministry’s violations of rules.

Ephedrine, popularly known as ‘poor man’s cocaine’ is a thermogenic commonly used to treat hypotension. It stimulates the brain, increases the heart rate, blood pressure, body heat and expands bronchial tubes. Ephedrine is one of the most popular stimulants that is abused and leads to an addiction very quickly.

Ephedrine is a controlled chemical and is only allowed to be used internationally in prescribed quantity.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2012.

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