‘Private hospitals could be involved in selling expired medicines’

Updated November 17, 2019

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An inquiry conducted by Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) has showed that private hospitals could be involved in selling expired medicines through their own medical stores. — AFP/File
An inquiry conducted by Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) has showed that private hospitals could be involved in selling expired medicines through their own medical stores. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: An inquiry conducted by Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) has showed that private hospitals could be involved in selling expired medicines through their own medical stores.

Pharmacists believe that expired medicines not only fail in curing the patients but can also leave adverse effects on them in the shape of a number of complications.

The inquiry report of Drap dated Nov 8 and available with Dawn states that during a raid at a known hospital in the federal capital it transpired that expired medicines were being sold at its medical store.

According to the report prepared by Federal Inspector of Drugs Mehvish Ansari, though the manufacturing and expiry dates of some medicines were changed the batch numbers showed that the drugs were expired. The report would be submitted to the competent forum to fix criminality and responsibility.

Additional Director Quality Assurance Drap Abdul Sattar Surani told Dawn that there was an old case in which a patient had claimed that expired medicines were given to him at the private hospital almost a decade back and since then he had approached different forums, including the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), to get relief.

Though manufacturing and expiry dates of some medicines sold by a private hospital were changed, their batch numbers showed the drugs had expired, says Drap report

“Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) also started an investigation into the matter. As the matter finally came to us we sent an inspector to the hospital to look into it. Though it could not be confirmed that expired medicines were given to the patient as it was an old case, it was revealed that even after 2015 the hospital had purchased medicines with bogus receipts. The batch numbers of medicines showed that some of the drugs were expired but were still being sold after changing the dates,” he said.

In reply to a question, Mr Surani said in public sector hospitals usually complaints were received regarding poor quality or substandard medicines due to which companies providing the medicines were declared responsible.

“However, both companies and private hospital managements can be involved in it. Over the years Drap has developed a system under which now we take strict action over such complaints,” he said.

Pakistan Pharmacists Association General Secretary Ihsanullah said expired medicines had two kinds of effects.

“In some cases such medicines become ineffective and stop curing the patients. However, in some cases the active ingredients start showing negative effects due to which a number of health complications can occur. It is unfair with the patients because they purchase medicines to treat their diseases but end up with more complications. While purchasing medicines, patients should ensure that a pharmacist is running the medical store because they (pharmacists) can verify such things,” he said.

Nadeem Akhtar, who had filed a complaint with the PMDC, FIA and other relevant forums, said he faced brain-related complications due to the expired medicines.

“Moreover, I came to know that the doctor did not have the speciality which he was claiming to have and being marketed by the hospital. As I got involved into it, I was shocked to know that medicines were being sold at higher rates from the medical store of the hospital as the hospital had printed the higher prices on them. Moreover, the medicines were expired,” he said.

An official of the FIA, requesting not to be quoted, said during an investigation it transpired that the doctor lacked the speciality which he was claiming to have.

“It was also revealed that an official of the devolved PMDC had issued a fake letter to the doctor and he was using it for practicing,” he said.

When contacted, Drap Chief Executive Officer Dr Asim Rauf said over the years it happened in cases of alternative drugs which were not registered with the authority.

“Hospitals used to mention prices of their choice and Drap was not empowered to regulate those medicines. However, now we have started regulating even alternative medicines and I am sure that people would not get such complaints in future,” he said.

“Complaints are also received regarding dispensing [drugs made by combination of two or three medicines or creams] as hospitals charge the price of their choice,” he said.

In 2016, secretary health Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mohammad Abid Majeed sent a letter to the then secretary Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) Ayub Sheikh raising the issue of unregistered medicines being sold in the market. He claimed that a number of fictitious firms had started pouring so-called food supplements, neutraceuticals, infant and baby formulae and herbal medicinal products into market.

“Invariably, all these so-called alternative medicines were reported containing allopathic ingredients openly sold in the market. From January to June 2016, as many as 534 nutrition/alternative medicines were analysed by the provincial drug laboratories and it was found that there were ingredients which become a reason of severe damage to public health,” the letter had stated.

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2019