Spurious drugs’ business on rise in KP.

: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai

PESHAWAR: According to the World Health Organization (WHO) report as many as one million people die every year worldwide from using counterfeit medications and Pakistan happens to be one of the largest contributors in this regard. In Pakistan, in 2012, in one incident alone, 120 people died after taking counterfeit heart medicine.

This reality was endorsed by none other than the former Interior Minister Rehman Malik in 2010, when he revealed that 50 percent of medicines sold in Pakistan were spurious and substandard.

Pakistan has established The Drug Regulatory to spot the black marketer involved in drug trade.

Figures available with the Pakistani Pharmacist Association reveal that compared to approximately 4,000 licensed pharmacies in Pakistan, there are 100,000 other illegal merchants selling medicines.

According to Dr Shabana Haider, the former Head of the Communications at Punjab Healthcare Commission, the difference between a pharmacy and a medical store is that pharmacy cannot sell medicines without prescription while a medical store sells over the counter medicines such as vitamins and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), drugs used to treat inflammation; mild to moderate pain; and fever. Other than NSAIDs medical stores are not allowed to sell any other drugs. The commonality between a pharmacy and a medical store lies in the obligation both follows on having a qualified pharmacist to sell medicines.

Dr Haider says that Pakistan is a unique case where a mushroom growth of medical store is allowed, a rare phenomenon in developed countries. She is of the opinion that pharmacies in Pakistan are not run by professionals and certified pharmacists. “If we go by the rules even a doctor is not allowed to open a pharmacy, it is the prerogative of pharmacist only, who is trained in dispensing drugs and medication.”

Just like any other city of Pakistan, black marketers have been playing with the lives of the people living in Peshawar.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly passed the KP Healthcare Commission (HCC) Act, 2015 and notified it on March 13, 2015. The purpose of the Act is to streamline medical practices and provide effective and quality services to the people.

HCC has replaced the Health Regularity Authority (HRA). Which was established in 2002 with the same functions but it failed to show any progress owing to the non-existence of rules and regulations.

Dr Mohammad Zafar, a former director-general health, who heads the Board of Directors formed under the HCC law, said to NewsLens Pakistan that the rules and regulations drafted in accordance with the HCC Act 2015, will outlines the scope of work of different doctors and clinics and any violations will entail punishment. A Maximum sentence for spurious drug peddlers and fake doctors would be six months couple with Rs one million fine.

“The HCC will act in complete collaboration with the district government and police to ensure that the violators of the law get punished,” said Dr Zafar.

According to the data provided to News Lens Pakistan by the HCC, the city government authorized through a notification by the HCC has sealed approximately 740 different facilities including laboratories, private hospitals, dental clinics, hospitals run by quacks and medical stores without trained pharmacists, in different parts of KP since April 2015.

Additional Assistant Commissioner Peshawar, Altaf Hussain, conducted a raid on the packaging facility of a wholesale dealer in Namakmandi Peshawar on September 8, 2015, and confiscated 100,000 spurious drugs. The same month around 290 unregistered medicines used for the treatment of sexual dysfunction were seized from two departmental stores in Peshawar.

The Chief Drug Inspector KP, Sardar Afrasyab, told NewsLens Pakistan that there were around 30 drug inspectors in the entire KP, which was not enough to cater to the needs of hundred of medical stores in the province. He said the government must recruit more drug inspectors because scarce resources and insufficient security situation has made matter worse.

The Drug Inspection Team KP has inspected from January to July 2015 around 8,960 medical stores out of which 344 stores were sealed while First Investigation Report was filed against 15 people.

Ihsan Ullah, the General Secretary Pakistan Pharmaceutical Association, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa told NewsLens Pakistan that there was an acute shortage of pharmacist in KP which has left the health sector in shambles. This he said in spite of the fact that every year 1,000 students graduate as pharmacists from different institutions in KP. The negligence was resulting in unnecessary deaths of hundred of people due to reactions from taking spurious drugs.

He further said that there were around 10,000 medical stores in Peshawar without qualified pharmacists.

“Last year a pregnant woman died in the Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar because of spurious injection administered to her”, Ihsan added.

When NewsLens Pakistan contacted Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Minister Sharam Khan Taraki he informed that the KP government has made the HCC fully autonomous, adding that soon rules regulation for the HCC will be formulated and implemented.

“It is a matter of concern that people are playing with the lives of patients.The government is quite clear that no one would be spared if found in such foul activity,” Tarkai added while saying that more drug inspectors and pharmacists would be hired soon.