PESHAWAR: The health authorities have warned the people against buying Indian and other smuggled drugs over harmful effects amid reports about higher sales of such medicines after the recent increase in registered ones by the federal government.

A senior health official told Dawn that around 88,000 drugs had been registered by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan but druggists sold smuggled medicines to get higher profit.

“We registered 5,000 cases against the sellers of Indian, Chinese and other unregistered imported drugs in the last one year and imposed penalty on their sellers,” he said.

Officials ask people not to buy unregistered medicines over harmful effects

The officials said the government had allowed an increase of nine to 15 per cent in drug prices last week following their shortage with the manufacturers complaining that the drug prices hadn’t been increased for 10 years despite significant increase in imported raw materials and finished products due to the Pakistani rupees’ devaluation.

A pharmacist claimed that most Indian and unregistered medicines sold on the market were fake and spurious and didn’t contain active ingredients but patients bought them for cheap rates.

He added that patients were confused as 50 per cent of the registered companies manufactured the same pharmaceutical products.

The pharmacist said a pain-killer medicine, Diclofenac Sodium, was marketed by more than 5,000 registered firms and thus, paving the way for smugglers to place their fake products on the market and earn money.

He said there were around 1,500 formulas on which drugs were manufactured under different brand names.

“Taking advantage of the situation, chemists also sell unregistered medicines, especially in rural areas, where the relevant authorities are not able to act against them due to lack of human resources,” he said.

Some physicians claimed that the patients asked chemists to give them Indian version of the prescribed drugs.

They said the chronically-ill patients, who used medicines for longer periods, opted for Indian or smuggled and unregistered imported drugs.

“The smuggled drugs aren’t genuine and don’t have efficacy as we don’t know about their contents,” a doctor said.

He said tranquillisers, anti-hypertensive and anti-cancer drugs, sedatives, pain killers and antibiotics such as Amoxicillin and Ampicillin were mostly sought by patients as they were five to 10 times cheaper than the registered ones.

The doctors said Famotidine marketed by local and multinational companies for stomach problems was sold for Rs200-Rs500 per 10 tablets but its Indian version was available on the market for Rs80-Rs100 per 10 tablets.

They said most of smuggled medicines didn’t carry literature and information about their ingredients but the people got them from drugstores without prescription.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2019