BENGALURU: Despite your physician prescribing you good medicines, many a time we may wonder why the drug is not working? One reason could be that the medicine is either substandard or falsified.
According to a recent WHO study, one in 10 medical products being sold in low and middle-income countries is either substandard or falsified. This means that people are taking medicines that fails to treat or prevent disease and may even be harmful to them.
Such drugs are not only a drain on one’s pocket, but could even cause serious illness or even death. "Substandard and falsified medicines particularly affect the most vulnerable communities," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
"Imagine a mother who gives up food or other basic needs to pay for her child’s treatment, unaware that the medicines are substandard or falsified, and the child dies. This is unacceptable. Countries have agreed on measures at the global level – it is time to translate them into tangible action," Dr Tedros added.
These research findings are a wake-up call to India which is already battling stricter regulation issues regarding drug manufacturing and is also facing a rise in cases of antibiotic resistance.
"Making spurious medicines is a cottage industry here and people are doing this for a living. The effect is huge as doctors are prescribing antibiotics, but the fever is not coming down and they have to change the antibiotics. Sadly it is not the antibiotics that is at fault but the fact that it doesn't have the potency," said Dr N. Devadasan, Director, Institute of Public Health. He added that most spurious medicines are copies of big companies because these are fast moving products and the returns are high. Explaining it from a physician's point of view, Dr Sudha Menon, Director, Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru said, "I will prescribe a tablet in full faith and the tendency for us is to prescribe a standard brand. Each medicine we prescribe is in a particular dosage, frequency and the potency of whichever medicines, be it antibiotic or antibacterial. Sadly, if the antibiotic is not of the appropriate potency what you expect, it would obviously not have the desired effect and the bacteria which it is supposed to kill won't die. Asking for drug resistance is the end result of it."
As a remedy experts have called for stricter controls. "We need to have strong measures and it is not rocket science. Other countries have cracked it. We need stronger regulatory process and more drug controllers at various levels. The government needs to sit with mainstream industries and work out ways through which a patient can find out whether the drug is genuine or not," Dr Devadasan said.
"The biggest problem is that in our country most of the medicines, Schedule H medicines are sold over the counter without prescriptions and that has to stop," he added. “We need a stricter regulatory mechanism with proper penalties in place. In our country neither the supplier, manufacturer nor retailers are checked and the end user or prescriber is not exactly in a position to comment as they have no idea and doctors prescribe it in full faith," Dr Sudha said.