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Bangladesh - Health - August 18, 2021

Counterfeit drugs flood market

Public health at serious risk

Golam Mostafa Jibon: Despite several drives of the law enforcers, fake and adulterated drugs have flooded the markets during the corona pandemic putting the public health at serious risk instead of saving lives.
In the wholesale and retail market, adulterated medicines are being sold by copying the packages and packets of some necessary and widely used medicines.
Though, the authorities concerned in collaboration with the law enforcers have beefed up their surveillance in this regard, the trend of producing and marketing the fake and contaminated drugs is not being stopped anyhow.
An organized syndicate of the counterfeit drugs’ producers and traders are running their brisk business deceiving the eyes of the law enforcers during the corona crisis, while live saving drugs are considered as very essential.
Meanwhile, the Dhaka Metropolitan Detective Police (DB) arrested eight members of such a gang by conducting separate drives in Dhaka, Savar and Pirojpur on August 15. At that time, the law enforcers unearth an unauthorized drug producing factory along with various equipments to produce fake and adulterated drugs. A large quantity of counterfeit medicines, counterfeit medicine making equipments were seized during the operation.
The arrested were identified as Faisal Mubarak, Nasir, Ohidul, Mamun, Robin, Ibrahim, Abu Naeem and Faisal. Of them, Faisal Mubarak was the main culprit of the cycle.
Saifur Rahman Azad, Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) of Kotwali Zone of DB’s Lalbagh division said, “The members of the gang had forged licenses to manufacture Ayurvedic medicines. Using the license, they were marketing counterfeit medicines of different brands. These include widely used drugs such as Seclo, Monas, Montier, Safe-3 and Naproxen Plus. The members of the gang used various courier services to distribute the counterfeit drugs across the country.”
He further said, despite the unimaginable improvement in the pharmaceutical industry, the country’s market has been flooded with adulterated drugs. As a result, ordinary people are constantly getting confused about the quality of medicines. One class of pharmaceutical companies is making different types of adulterated drugs to make more profit. There are several complaints that, around 59 companies in the country out of 193 are involved with the producing of adulterated and substandard drugs. Patients are being infected with complex and difficult diseases after taking such adulterated drugs. Many patients die due to taking these drugs.”
“Despite the recent crackdown by the law enforcement agencies, the use of adulterated drugs is not going to be stopped,” he added.
Drug experts said that, adulteration is found in all medicines starting from Allopathic to Ayurvedic.
The drug companies are showing various temptations to the doctors and advising the patients to take these drugs. The use of adulterated drugs is increasing as there is no strict punishment system for this crime.
Apart from this, corruption in the pharmaceutical sector, laxity in law enforcement, lack of supervision by the administration, weak judiciary, technical incompetence, lack of skilled trained manpower are the main reasons for marketing adulterated drugs, experts opined.
Seeking anonymity, an official of Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection said, expired drugs are being sold in around 93 percent of pharmacies in the capital.
According to the World Health Organization, 15 percent of the world’s medicines are adulterated. Of them, 35 percent are made in India and 23 percent in Nigeria, while around 15 percent of medicines are adulterated in Pakistan.
There are two drug testing laboratories in Bangladesh. One is in Mohakhali and another is in Chattogram. But, the operation of these two laboratories is questionable. There are allegations that most of the seized adulterated drugs are replaced before the test. It is also alleged that some of the officials here have links with drug companies.
In April 2016, the government revoked the licenses of 20 pharmaceutical companies for allegedly producing and distributing adulterated and substandard drugs in Bangladesh. At the same time, some of the 38 other companies were warned to revoke their licenses to produce drugs. The question is how will a patient understand which medicine is adulterated, counterfeit or substandard?
From 1980 to 1992, thousands of children died in Bangladesh after consuming the harmful Paracetamol syrup. According to the government’s Department of Drug Administration, the number is more than 2,000. Throughout the eighties, the deaths of young children with kidney failure after consuming adulterated Paracetamol syrups made by several companies were a hot topic. At one stage, the Department of Drug Administration tested the Paracetamol syrup of several companies. It detects the presence of a toxin called dry-ethylene glycol, which can lead to kidney failure and death. Then in 1992, the Department of Drug Administration filed 5 cases. More than two decades later, in 2014 and 2015, several of his cases were tried. Several cases are still pending in the court.
According to a professor of pharmacology at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), many times the harmful effects of adulterated or substandard drugs can be detected slowly or after a long time, whether it is due to adulterated drugs or not.
Experts say that not only patients, but also doctors often do not understand which is the adulterated drug! Observations show that 25,000 types of medicines are produced annually in Bangladesh. The government has the capacity to test only 4,000 drugs.

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