“Tyno and Dextromethorphan are registered in the non-controlled drug items and are not included in the prohibited drug items,” Lahore Health Executive District Officer (EDO) Capt Dr Inamul Haq says, adding that the sale of cough syrups did not require prescription by qualified doctors.
He, however, said that the health department has been receiving complaints regarding the open sale of several controlled medicines which remained unaddressed largely due to multiple reasons.
Citing one of the major factors behind this ‘gross negligence’, the EDO said that there are only 10 drug inspectors to monitor over 4,000 pharmacies and small-scale medical stores registered in Lahore. All these pharmacies and medical stores were issued licenses after fulfilling the laid down criteria but many of them violated rules later on.
Regarding the dearth of qualified pharmacists, Dr Haq said that the big pharmacies which had multiple outlets in the market were completely following the rules in this regard. They are qualified pharmacists and have degrees like Doctor in Pharmacy.
However, the department has been receiving complaints regarding the small-scale medical stores functioning at the street level and in the densely populated localities. “These medical stores were awarded registration in the category B which meant the license holders were dispensers and bear only diploma and training from Punjab Medical Faculty,” he said.
According to the health officials and medical experts, the sale of ‘unregistered and imported’ medicines was
a matter of grave concern besides the proliferation of counterfeit or spurious medicines due to poor mechanism
in ‘drug distribution channels’. “The provision of large-scale unregistered imported cancer medicines, various brands of insulin and steroid-containing drugs through unauthorised channels in the local markets might lead to any major disaster,” a senior wholesale dealer of Lohari Medicine Market said requesting anonymity.
He blamed poor legislation and inactive Drug Regulating Authority for the poor mechanism of network of manufacturing and supply of medicines to the markets.
Punjab Chemist Council President Nisar Chaudhry, however, strongly dispelled the impression that the market was flooded with counterfeit or spurious medicines.
“Lahore is one of the biggest markets for wholesale medicine among five districts including Karachi, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Faisalabad where the volume of business has been estimated at Rs7 million daily,” he said. At present several distributors and local manufacturers are dealing with life-saving and other medicines in Lohari Medicine Market alone besides 500 big wholesale dealers, while over 4,000 other pharmacies and medical stores are running businesses in the provincial capital.
Chaudhry claimed that several surveys have been carried out by major local and foreign health organisations including the World Health Organisation (WHO) regarding the presence of counterfeit medicines but their reports refuted such allegations.
He was, however, gravely concerned about the import of raw material of active and inactive ingredients which according to him has started flourishing in the market. “Local businessmen have been importing raw material from China and India tomanufacture medicines and there is no proper mechanism to ensure quality of the imported substance,” Chaudhry said. —A.C.