On the directives of the Peshawar High Court (PHC), the health department has formed teams in all districts to take action against those involved in the production and sale of spurious medicines.
On July 16, the PHC ordered the health department to launch a clean-up operation against businesses of spurious drugs and complete its work within 45 days. The court also ordered that the drug act should be presented in the provincial assembly in the next three months for amendments.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Health Services Director General Dr Muhammad Zafar suggested a need to change the Drug Act of 1976, adding it was time the responsibility of deciding the course of action fell with the provincial government.
Dr Zafar said this week 150 shops involved in selling substandard medicines have been shut down and their licenses cancelled, while Rs2.5 million was recovered in fines. FIRs were registered against 38 pharmaceutical companies allegedly involved in the production of these drugs and many of its workers were sent to prison.
There are 68,000 registered drugs in the country while many herbal medicines do not come under the jurisdiction of this Act, the director said, adding people take advantage because the punishment is not severe enough. “Those who earn millions in this business can pay Rs25,000 and get away with things,” he added.
Due to a shortage of staff the teams are faced with a multitude of problems. “In some districts, we only have one drug inspector while in others we have two,” he said, adding they have received threats during their drives.
The officials have requested the chief minister to increase the number of personnel.
Each team consists of a deputy district health officer, a food and drug inspector and officials of the health regulatory authority.
The department has also sought support from the district administration to provide information about stores and companies where the drugs are manufactured and sold. The teams are authorised to fine the owners, cancel their licenses and even send them to jail if the need permits.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2013.