The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has identified more than 450 drug stores selling spurious drugs in the provincial capital, according to a report of the agency available with The Express Tribune.
The drugs include medicine manufactured by local and multinational pharmaceutical companies including life-saving drugs. Along with the FIA report, the names of the spurious drugs and the medical stores selling them have been shared with the provincial health authorities, including the Punjab health minister and the provincial health secretary, FIA Punjab Director Dr Usman Anwar said.
The Punjab chapter of the FIA had launched an operation in early April after several complaints were made about the sale of substandard medicine in Lahore. Over the last two weeks, the FIA identified and raided 10 establishments which engaged in the manufacture, bulk supply and distribution of spurious drugs to hundreds of drug stores in Lahore. The record confiscated at the 10 establishments jointly raided by the FIA personnel and drug inspectors of the Health Department included invoices documenting the sale of spurious drugs to more than 450 drug stores in Lahore. In random checks, the adulterated medicines supplied by the 10 establishments were recovered from the cited drug stores.
The schedule of offences that the FIA covers includes spurious drugs. However, the agency can only proceed against spurious drugs in coordination with the Health Department. Before initiating the crackdown, the FIA had held meetings with officials of the Health Department, the Quality Control Board, the drug testing laboratory and the pharmaceutical association, and requested their assistance. All four had agreed to support the action, according to FIA officials.
The FIA report said that the medicine found during raids included fake drugs in forged packing, unregistered drugs, drugs sold without manufacturer’s warranty, expired medicine which had been repacked, drugs stolen from government or armed forces institutions, homeopathic or herbal products containing allopathic ingredients and drugs smuggled into Pakistan.
A taste of their own medicine
FIA Punjab Director Dr Usman Anwar said one of the arrested men had fainted in FIA’s custody. “He was taken to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital where he regained consciousness just as a nurse was about to administer a Risek injection to him. You should have seen him beg and plead with the nurses and doctors not to give him the injection. He had no compunction in stating that Risek was one of the fake injections that he manufactured and distributed in Lahore,” said the FIA Punjab chief.
Action by FIA
During the 10 raids the FIA arrested 13 accused and recovered millions of tablets and injections from factories and distribution networks. A factory in Kot Abdul Malik, another on Bund Road, distribution networks in Johar Town and BOR Society, pharmacies in Samanabad and two stores at Medicine Market were raided. Two establishments dealing in medicine stolen from armed forces and other government hospitals were raided in Tajpura Scheme and Islampura.
The FIA report highlighted various obstacles during the operation against spurious drugs due to the complex procedure, particularly regarding constitution of teams to raid drug establishments. The FIA could not conduct a raid without the area drug inspector accompanying its team. After a successful raid, permission from the Quality Control Board was mandatory before a case could be registered. After the FIA completed its investigation and submitted the report to the relevant drug inspector, the drug inspectors had to again send this report to the Quality Control Board for permission to prosecute.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2014.