The next time you pop a pill, chances are that it will do little to help you get better. This is because at least 30 per cent of all medication sold in India is fake, though the government disputes this figure. The trade in such drugs is worth a staggering Rs 4,000 crore, not surprising since 38 per cent of the international fake drug market is sourced from India. One of the major hubs of the trade is a popular market in the middle of New Delhi. We must assume from this that the authorities are turning a blind eye to this racket. Our public health system is in a shambles. The fact that many drugs don’t work can only add to our problems. There is no guarantee today that if you buy drugs from a reputed pharmaceutical, you are getting the real thing. The spurious drug trade has become so lucrative and sophisticated that it is very difficult to tell fake medication from a genuine one. To make matters worse, many drugs sold in India are of a lower potency than the one sold in the West. This could result in patients here becoming drug resistant.
The Indian pharma industry is worth Rs 20,000 crore and growing. India’s reputation as a haven for spurious drugs and as an exporter of substandard medication will affect this growth adversely. The US has put India on a watch list of several other countries for the export of spurious drugs. When it comes to health, India, which has the world’s highest percentage of diseases like tuberculosis and cancers, not to mention other communicable ailments, is extremely apathetic. As of now, there are no plans to beef up inspection mechanisms — the Drugs Control Officers Confederation needs at least 4,500 more inspectors. It currently has 35 personnel, monitoring 15,000 manufacturing units and over 5 lakh retail outlets. Only 23 states have testing facilities for drugs. Amendments to the drug policy rarely get off the ground. And when was the last time you heard of anyone getting convicted for dealing in spurious drugs?
The quantum growth in economic indices will amount to little if the health of the country is compromised.