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You may be able to buy smaller packs of medicines instead of entire strips in Mumbai soon

FDA has asked the Drugs Controller General of India to reduce size of packets so that patients can buy dosage as prescribed

mumbai Updated: Dec 20, 2017 11:06 IST
Sadaguru Pandit
Sadaguru Pandit
Hindustan Times
FDA officials said as the enforcement agency under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, the DCGI can amend existing norms for medicine packages. (Representational photo )

Patients may soon be able to buy medicines in smaller quantities rather than buying entire strips. In a recent letter, Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) asked Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) to reduce the size of packets so that patients can buy dosage as prescribed by their physicians.

Chemists associations and doctors welcomed the move, saying it will prevent wastage and abuse of medicines. Experts said people with lifestyle diseases and psychological disorders will benefit because they are currently forced to buy packets of medicines.

“Patients were forced to buy entire packets because pharmacists were unable to cut the entire strips. Cutting the strips often results in loss of name, batch number or expiry date. So we suggested that DGCI to introduce smaller packets bearing mandatory details,” said Arjun Khadtare, FDA joint commissioner (Drugs).

Pallavi Darade, FDA commissioner, said they had received complaints from consumers across Mumbai and Thane about pharmacists selling entire packets instead of doses prescribed by physician.

“We raised the issue during our workshops with pharmacists and they informed us that major problem was expiry date and name of the medicine, which were getting cut if they dispensed smaller quantities. We haven’t specified any particular type of medicine, but medication for lifestyle diseases and common ailments such as cough and cold can certainly be added to the category,” said Darade.

FDA officials said as the enforcement agency under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, the DCGI can amend existing norms for medicine packages.

“Schedule P1 - relating to package norms- can enforce smaller packaging guidelines. If our appeal is approved, DCGI can add more medicines under P1 category and issue a notification for pharmaceutical companies which in turn shall change the packaging of the drugs,” said officials.

Members from chemist associations said for the past four years, pharmaceutical companies started increasing the size of packets to increase sale and profits.

“Strips which had 10 pills, now have 60 pills. The information about the medicine such as its generic name, price, manufacturer details and expiry date is scattered all over the packet owing to which we couldn’t dispense smaller quantities,” said Prasad Danve, president, retail and dispensing, chemist association, Mumbai.

Experts said medicines for psychiatry treatment, mostly antidepressants and sleeping pills, which either come in pack of ten or fifteen, can be misused.

“At times we prescribe medicines for acute anxiety or depression for only three or four days, but since the strip contains 10 to 15 pills, it can potentially be misused by patients. It’s a good move, but the government shouldn’t completely abolish bigger packets because that can be cumbersome for elderly patients who have been on this medication for too long,” said Dr Parul Tank, consultant psychiatrist and therapist, Wockhardt Hospital.

However, some of the experts said it was better to counsel patients rather than change the size of packets to contain the issue of drug abuse or antibiotic resistance.

“Patients are most likely to stop taking medication once their symptoms subside, which is one of the major reasons of antibiotic resistance. The issue of drug abuse can be curbed better by counselling patients to complete their dosage and use it effectively to treat their ailments and not symptoms,” said Dr Om Srivastava, infectious disease expert.

First Published: Dec 20, 2017 11:06 IST