Price hike in life savings drugs spurs its smuggling
The sale of imported drugs has gone up to steep increase across the region leads to embolden patients who prefer smuggled medicines over local ones which are assumed to be no less in quality to protect its health with better relieving of the financial burden at a critical juncture of the time.
There has been a flux of medicines smuggled from neighbouring countries particularly Iran and India which sales have superseded reportedly on account of huge price difference appears to be in favour of both chemists and patients as well.
“Even consultants prefer to prescribe imported injections for their patients as they are no less in efficacy and available remarkably at reduced prices” said a wholesale drugs dealer of local Ghanta Ghar market”. And what about the medicines like Lioresal to treat nervous system disorders, Glucotin injection to cure high blood sugar levels caused by type 2 diabetes and others aren’t supplied locally by any of the national and multinational pharmaceutical company in country, and we have been left with no other choice but to arrange that medicines for the patients, he added.
It has been learnt that most of the chemists have placed smuggled drugs in Pakistani packing to hoodwink drug inspectors.
Pharmacist Dr Khizer Abbas commenting upon the situation said most of the drugs were smuggled from Iran and India via the Afghanistan route lost temperature that usually required among two to eight degrees centigrade, thus compromise the efficacy. The government should either permit trade from neighbouring countries or enforced a strict ban on smuggling. Smuggled or non-warranted medicines lead to produce placebo effect while treatment of patients, he maintained.
Customs inspectors and agents said that seizing illegal pharmaceuticals at the border is a difficult task. Conventional drug detection methods couldn’t help out effectively capturing smuggled drugs, said customs officer Ali Hussain.
A significant price difference was observed between non-warranted drugs including Human Albumin injection (50 ml) is used for hypovolemia (low blood volume) available at Rs. 4000 as compared to Rs. 5,000 commercially at medical stores, while the same injection of 100 ml power is being sold at Rs. 8000 against local brand at Rs. 10,000. Similarly, Factor-VIII meant to cure blood disorders (thalassemia, haemophilia & sickle cell disease) is offered at Rs. 4000 than Rs. 5,000 sold commercially at drugs store. Anti-D is used to prevent women from forming antibodies that would attack the red cells of a Rhesus positive baby in a future pregnancy found at Rs. 4000 while the same injection marketed by a local company at Rs. 5500. Oxaliplatin is a chemotherapy drug being sold at Rs. 3,000 against Rs. 6000 by a locally registered company. Doxorubicin is used to treat several different types of cancer is easily available at Rs. 1500 as imported drug compared with Rs. 2500 commercially.
Gynaecologist Dr Rubeena Akhtar said in this regard that they used to prescribe medicines of good company, but patients opt for low prices. According to her, they can’t check the efficacy of injection on time nor have a mechanism to find whether or not anti-bodies are built in the body. Sometimes, patients asked them they would themselves take an injectable dose at their homes so they remain helpless to check the efficacy of the treatment.
Drugs Controller Rao Asad opining over the treacherous episode confessed that conducting raids on drugs stores to unearth smuggled or unwarranted items could not help to oust them from markets. We seal pharmacies found in wrongdoing, get their owners booked with police station with putting up cases at drugs court, he said, but no more could be done after this to curb the sale (of smuggled drugs), added he.
A druggist working at Nishtar road urging not to be named said his entire business is based on smuggled drugs. According to him, his medical store was raided last year and the case was put up at drugs court, but the matter was settled down by offering Rs. 200,000 to the drugs authority. Another proprietor referring to the latest drugs act which enforces to prohibit the sale of smuggled drugs, also narcotics items by the druggists carrying B-category said: it’s no matter to get worrying as we have increased ‘monthly’ to the drug inspector from Rs.5000 to Rs. 6,000.
“I have no problem purchasing imported injection (factor-VIII) to treat my son, a thalassemia patient, because it produces equally good results, said Abdur Rehman, resident of district DG Khan who doesn’t want to spend extra money to buy costly medicine to cure his ailing son.
It is pertinent to note that the very information with regard to the sale of smuggled drugs in the local market, conducting of raids by the authority followed by the arrest of the accused persons involved in the heinous business was yet to receive after Right To Information (RTI) application filed with DRAP chairman.