Court 'Lies Idle' As Unsafe Drugs Flood Market
Thursday, 06 August 2009

Some 200 out of around 250 licensed drug companies are churning out sub-standard medicines, officials of the Directorate of Drug Administration allege, while lawyers say the country's lone drug court remains idle as authorities, including the DDA, fail to take legal action against the offenders.

That the market is flooded with adulterated medicines is a longtime allegation.

Most recently, a paracetamol syrup produced by the Rid Pharmaceutical Company was tested and found to contain a toxic ingredient after 25 children died of kidney failure between June-July.

But lawyers say the special drug court in Dhaka has less than 40 cases pending, most regarding improper advertising, while it should be handling at least a few thousand cases.

"Though we are being fed poison at a high price in the name of medicine, no active legal steps are being taken," Anwar Zahid Bhuiyan, former special public prosecutor of the drug court, told bdnews24.com.

"In this situation legal action is being taken only against the amulet selling companies," he said.

Lawyers blame the drug administration for laxity resulting in lack of legal action.

They also blame drug inspectors and superintendents for leniency and corruption. The drug administration, on the other hand, blames lack of resources.

Md Ismail Hossain, head of the Directorate of Drug Administration, told bdnews24.com, "We cannot act for lack of manpower."

There are drug superintendents in just 27 of the country's 64 districts. The drug administration is ineffective over the banned and low quality medicines smuggled into the country from India, Pakistan, Thailand, Middle East and other countries.

Several drug administration officials, not wanting to be named, told bdnews24.com that 200 out of around 250 licensed drug companies in the country are manufacturing sub-standard medicines.

"Most inspectors are taking salaries in one hand and in the other are receiving monthly allowances from blacklisted companies," state-appointed public prosecutor Mahmud Hossain Jahangir told bdnews24.com.

According to the existing law, only the superintendents of the drug administration can file cases.

Police can file a case in exceptional circumstances. But permission has to be obtained from the drug administration for investigation.

Seeking amendments of the drug control laws, the lawyer said legislation should be amended to give members of the public the chance to file cases directly if affected by adulterated drugs.

"Otherwise adulterated medicines will prevail in the market," said Dulal Mitra, a drug court lawyer.

Lawyers said laxity, bipartisan attitudes and leniency of the superintendents and lack of government advertisement, the public outside urban areas have no knowledge of where they to go if they are deceived by drug companies and quack medicines.

Drug administration director, Md Ismail Hossain, declined to comment on the corruption of the drug superintendents and inspectors.

But, admitting the urgency of the situation and the need to amend the drug laws, Hossain said the highest punishment should be death sentence for adulteration and corruption in the drug industry.

"We are discussing it with the law ministry. It can be raised in parliament," he said.

Court lies idle

According to the cause list and register book, around half of the less than 40 pending cases remain stayed under High Court orders. The accused in the rest of the cases are not being brought to trial.

Seven cases were filed in the court in 2008, said officials of drug administration.

From October 2007 to March 2009, licences of three companies were suspended and licences of more than 50 companies have been postponed for producing and marketing adulterated and low quality medicines.

"In 2007, this court delivered verdicts of 22 cases and in 2008 there was just one verdict," bench-clerk of the drug court Rafiqul Islam told bdnews24.com.

Even though opinions and recommendations have been sent to the drug administration for filing a few thousand cases there were no end results, said public prosecutors of the court.

"Most accused are found guilty in drug cases but the number of such cases is very low in the court," said Md Abdul Hanif, a state prosecutor.

The drug court was founded in 1992 under the Drug Control Ordinance of 1982. Low quality, adulterated and unregistered medicine, selling medicines allocated for government hospitals and increasing the price of drugs disregarding rules are considered crimes under the law.

The law also imposes a ban on advertisements of drugs without permission from the authorities.

It also says no unregistered medicine can be produced, imported or sold.

The law also recommends following guidelines of the World Health Organisation.

The law proscribes punishment for producing low quality medicine, importing unregistered medicine, selling medicine at a high price, selling government-funded medicine in retail market.

Source: bdnews24.com

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