The cure is the killer itself...
The issue that is making rounds in media is the recent act by Chinese companies of selling counterfeit drugs in African countries under the tag of ‘Made in India’. The issue surfaced when Nigeria's pharma regulator reported the detention of a large consignment of fake drugs for treating malaria with `Made in India' tag on it. These drugs were instead produced in China and had the potential of taking over 600,000 lives. Chinese attempt of degrading Brand India had raised a spur amongst concerned authorities, but paradoxically, never had these authorities raised even an iota of spur for the domestic counterfeit drug market.
It isn’t a secret that the domestic spurious drugs market is predicted to be around a staggering Rs.400 billion. In spite of India being a source of high quality generic and patent drugs in legitimate market worldwide, India is also a hub of fake medicine and is the chief member in the global drugs supply route. According to the OECD report, 75 per cent of fake drugs supplied world over have some origins in India. The infiltration of counterfeit medicine is more horrifying than the worth of this spurious drug industry. As per the latest ASSOCHAM estimate, more than 20 per cent of medicines that are sold in India comprise fake ones. And out of this 20 per cent, around 16 per cent have life threatening ingredients. Thanks to the absence of preventive legislation, 38 per cent of medicine sold in the government hospital is fake and counterfeit.
Being an attractive business and the attraction of quick bucks, chemists as well as pharmaceutical manufactures, especially start-ups, rampantly engage in this malpractice. And as these medicines can be easily and cheaply produced, finding customers isn’t difficult at all as the economically poorer section of any country, particularly under developed, who are bereft of any knowledge with respect to side effects of such drugs and coupled with the fact that their affordability restricts them from quality medication, which unfortunately is expensive!!
There have been numerous reports that fake medicine not only comes as a peril for all those poor for whom adequate health care remains a distant dream, but even for those fortunate ones, who have access to good care, as no one can be certain the medicine they are taking is reliable. And the bigger scare is that going by the way the counterfeit market is growing, in long run, it would completely erode patient’s confidence in the medicine but will also eventually make pharmaceutical companies lose interest in their R&D initiatives. The drug control infrastructure both at the State and Central levels is currently inadequate in tackling the on-going drugs menace; as there's a dearth of drug inspectors and only a few states have a drug-testing laboratory. The fact is that, till date, not even a single prosecution has resulted in life imprisonment since the amendment of Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1982. The main problem with the law is that it's not capable of tracking the distribution network. To curb the thriving deceitful uproar of counterfeit drugs, it's imperative to reinforce quality checks and modernise the drug testing facility at all levels.
Agreed that this act of China is not acceptable at any given point of time but then more importantly this event should encourage the polity in addressing the domestic counterfeit drug market. Similarly, again at any given point of time, counterfeiting is deceiving and dissolute in any society but in case of health care, it's a crime!! The precedence now must be to fortify the drug control machinery and provide enforcement agency with some teeth at least!