The latest national drugs survey has come as a wake-up call for Punjab government as the medicines being supplied to state’s hospitals have been found of poor quality, pointing to a weak drug regulatory system in the state.
The estimated percentage of substandard drugs supplied to state’s civil hospitals, government-run medical store depots and ESI dispensaries is found to be 11.39%, which is higher than the national average of 10.02%.
During the survey, as many as 360 samples of medicines (tablets and capsules) and injections were examined from as many as 62 government-run outlets in the state between 2014 and 2016, of which 41 were found of inferior quality.
The survey was conducted by National Institute of Biologicals (NIB) that released the report on February 17.
Punjab health secretary Vini Mahajan said the department is currently reviewing the report to take all possible measures to improve the quality of drugs in Punjab. “The basic problem that I have noticed is that we are currently relying on private labs for medicine-testing and the feedback that we have received so far is that their report is not entirely reliable,” she said.
“We are precisely looking as which products have been found of substandard and from where the medicines were tested (in Punjab). We will find out and fix the responsibility,” she said.
- Quality testing at state level so that each consignment is scanned well.
- Government warehouses, medical store depots and pharmacies should have adequate storage facilities and provision for temperature humidity control, sufficient air conditioned space, refrigerators, deep freezers etc. along with their annual maintenance contracts.
- These facilities should be inspected at least once a year by a joint team of Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) and State Licensing Authorities (SLA).
- Agencies should conduct regular skill development training for the medical store officers, pharmacists and other staff members for handling of drugs, inventory control, good storage and warehousing practices.
- Government hospitals should set up modern pharmacies manned by qualified officers.
- Entire data of government drugs supply chain should be digitised for efficient inventory control, monitoring, and surveillance.
As per the report, there is a need for government procurement agencies to reinforce guidelines for the manufacturers to improve the quality of drugs. The agencies should develop and implement risk-based pre-inspection norms for selection of manufacturers of quality drugs and adopt testing of each consignment from accredited laboratories.
On this, Vini Mahajan said that their drug testing laboratory in Kharar is about to start within a month or so with all the modern facilities that have been guided by NIB only, the agency which prepared this report.
“Once our laboratory is fully functional, we expect to do better on this front.Quality norms will be enforced stringently,” Mahajan said.
Meanwhile, Punjab’s average of sub-standard drugs in the retail outlets is also higher than the national average.
As per the report, 4.20% of the drugs sample collected from 670 retail outlets in Punjab has been found of poor quality compared to 3% national average. The state has been advised to ensure enforcement of regulatory guidelines for drug manufacturing, storage, sale, distribution etc.