Bangla Version

Waging war on counterfeit drugs

If the export of medicines to developed countries in the West like the United States of America by some of the country’s pharmaceutical companies is a highly positive development, it is far from representative of the industry. Chaos reigns supreme on many fronts of the industry.  As the FE reported last Saturday, about 20 to 25 costly foreign medicines are finding their ways into the country’s markets without any approval of the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA). Are they indispensable or have no alternative here? Medicines are no consumer goods that one can choose without a physician’s prescription. Their illegal entrance is indicative of the fact that they are prescribed. 
The problem is further deepened by availability of low quality and date-expired types of foreign origin. Besides, traders are fixing prices of such medicines arbitrarily. Before giving permits for imports, the DGDA first verifies expiry dates and genuineness of foreign medicines. In case of unauthorised imports, such supervisions are rendered ineffective.  No wonder that counterfeit medicines  have a share worth an estimated Tk 6.0 billion in the Tk 180-billion medicine market of Bangladesh each year, according to drug manufacturers. It has been found that the medicines with high commercial value are the ones that are most tempered with. It is impossible for common people to identify which drugs are genuine and which ones are counterfeit because of near perfect copying.

The situation outside cities is reportedly very critical. Thousands of pharmacies in rural markets are outside the surveillance of the DGDA and get medicines from vendors who allegedly in collusion with some manufacturers and smugglers sell spurious and substandard drugs. Such unscrupulous traders earn large profits by selling banned essential drugs supplied by rogue companies and spurious vendors who set prices of such medicines arbitrarily. It is possible to make double the profit by selling counterfeit and sub-standard medicines than the original products. According to a recent survey, about 9.0 per cent of sales of medicines are linked to spurious drugs.

The spurious drugs–domestically produced and smuggled foreign ones–have their toll on the country’s population. These medicines damage important organs, but people are unaware of the damage. They are simply taking poison without knowing. Markets of medicines are so vast that it is simply impossible for the DGDA with its present staff to monitor those. The government should immediately strengthen monitoring of drug market by recruiting more technical manpower for the DGDA so that it could open more branches in upazilas, districts and divisions step by step. The magnitude of spurious and counterfeit medicines demands a sustained countrywide counter-measure against the malpractice by the authorities. The DGDA with its present status and strength cannot simply face the mighty challenge.

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