Kashmir is considered as a safe haven for all the drug manufacturers in India. It has been observed that people in Kashmir consume huge quantities of drugs. At times, people take these medicines as prescribed by the doctors, but sometimes they do it without the advice of doctors.
No wonder that medicine manufacturers are putting in extra efforts to see that their products are consumed in the Valley and they are able to stock in more profits from the region. This being the reason that many of these companies, irrespective of their presence elsewhere, make their sales team more vibrant and visible in the state.
Since innumerable companies operate here, so do the chances of markets being flooded with substandard medicines increase. Just this year it has been observed that as many as 83 drugs sold in the state were found to be sub-standard and misbranded.
Even the state’s health Minister has admitted in the assembly during the Budget session that there was a nexus between doctors and private pharmaceutical agencies in the state, resulting in medicos prescribing medicines of specific companies.
During 2015-16, 35 drugs were tested and found to be substandard, while during the same period 15 drugs were found to be misbranded or having labelling errors.
Similarly, in 2016-17, 14 drugs were found substandard, 19 as misbranded or having labelling errors.
However, we will not blame the government alone for the menace. Many a scheme like the introduction of the prescription audit through carbonless OPD slips was introduced, but the Directorate of Health, especially in Kashmir Valley has miserably failed to execute these measures on the ground.
The reason being that the Director is a political appointee and he is most of the time busy entertaining his political bosses rather than acting as an administrator and see that his department functions according to the needs of the time.
The performance of the Directorate can be gauged by the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), which has revealed that the state’s Health and Medical Education department has administered sub standard medicines to patients.
Bringing to forth several ills that are facing the department, the CAG report has noted that drugs to the patients that has been termed as sub standard. As per the report 50.95 lakh tablets, capsules, injections valued at Rs 82.74 lakh which were declared ‘not of standard quality’ had been issued for supply to patients.
The heath institutes are required to send the samples of the drug/ disposables for testing to the Drug Controller or an accredited laboratory on regular basis for ensuring independent quality check of the drugs; however as per the report none of the test checked health institutions had a mechanism of regular referral of drugs/ medicines/ disposables for testing.
Different local bodies have been raising their concerns over the medicines that are being provided to the patients, but the concerns were rejected as mere allegations.
Data collected from the state drug and food controller organization Srinagar/ Jammu shows that the organization had lifted 1833 samples from health institutions during 2010-15, out of which 43 samples were declared as ‘not of standard quality.
Besides, cross check of data in the sampled health institutions showed that 50.95 lakh tablets/ capsules/ injections etc. (value: 82.74 lakh) declared not of standard quality by the testing organization had been issued for supply to patients.
These are grave errors and if still the government does not act, this will be called a criminal negligence on the part of the government. What is the need of the hour is that the top brass in the health department should be held accountable and these gross irregularities should be got checked by the Vigilance organization in a time bound manner. This alone will restore the credibility of the health institutions and give some meaning to the governments exercise.