Questions of drug safety have dominated media headlines and public discussion for quite some time in Jammu and Kashmir over the years. Precisely, the discussions have centered on spurious drugs which can have harmful side-effects and can even kill. Malpractice by different sections of the healthcare departments in J&K came to the fore as also that of various players of pharmaceutical trade. Of late, the issue has not hogged headlines or public discussions but it does not mean the issue has disappeared or problems associated with it have been perpetually addressed.
Recently, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued notices to J&K government and the Union ministry of health and family welfare on a complaint related to the deaths of 11 infants due to consumption of a “spurious cough syrup” in Ramnagar tehsil of Udhampur district in January this year.
The action had been sought against delinquent government officials besides compensation to the families who lost their loved ones.
Soon after the tragedy, a high-level team of experts from the Union health and family welfare ministry had visited the area and confirmed that the children died after consuming syrup procured from a local chemist and manufactured by a pharmaceutical company in Himachal Pradesh.
In a report dated March 2, the Regional Drugs Testing Laboratory (RDTL) said the samples of the syrup were “not of standard quality” as defined in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
A case was registered and like past similar incidents, the required action is still awaited. In fact, there have been far fewer cases brought to fore by the concerned department which actually results in inadequate numbers to measure the actual problem of spurious and non-standard quality drugs in the Jammu and Kashmir.
Under the Drugs and Cosmetics (Amendment) Act 2008, any drug is deemed to be adulterated or spurious when used by any person for or in the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of any disease or disorder is likely to cause his death or is likely to cause such harm on his body.
A Parliamentary Committee last year had strongly recommended that the government take adequate measures to considerably increase the number of samples of drugs to be tested so as to instil fear in those who indulges in sale and distribution of spurious or non-standard quality drugs. The government must work seriously even if being bound by it. The doctors shall also not commit the crime of promoting drugs that can kill or harm the patient.