ISLAMABAD: Though the use of hand sanitisers has increased following the outbreak of Covid-19, there is still no authority to check and implement quality control of imported or locally-manufactured sanitisers.

This situation has arisen due to a decision taken by the federal cabinet in May last year to transfer manufacture and sale of sanitisers from Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) to the Ministry of Science and Technology.

By law, Drap is the official agency that deals with medicines and over the counter (OTC) products, ensuring that quality items are being produced as per World Health Organisation (WHO) directives. The decision of the federal cabinet, transferring licensing and quality check of sanitisers to Pakistan Standard and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA), however, created a gap in the system.

The PSQCA formulated the standards for sanitisers one year ago and all manufacturers and distributors of hand sanitisers and disinfectants were informed by the authority to follow the Pakistan Standard PS: 5453 through a press release.

Spokesman from the authority Rehmatullah Memon said the PSQCA was largely maintaining the standards of various products in the country. The authority has asked all manufacturers that the label on each bottle or packing needs to show the contents of the product with their percentage, date of manufacturing and expiry date, batch number and the manufacturer’s name with address.

Technically, the PSQCA was the official standards body that World Trade Organisation (WTO) listed on the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) agreement and was representing Pakistan in international standard agencies including International Organisation For Standardisation (ISO), International Electrotechnical Commission Geneva and International Organisation for Legal Metrology, Paris.

However, Drap is the legitimate agency of Pakistan dealing with WHO over medicines and OTC products and section 7(c) of the Drap Act, 2012 pertains to manufacturing of hand sanitisers.

A senior official of the Ministry of Health Services said that Drap Act, 2012 was the authorised agency to implement WHO standards in terms of medicines and OTC products.

“The federal cabinet does not have the authority to bypass the Drap act approved by the parliament,” the official added.

The law states that Drap has jurisdictions over “abortive and contraceptive substances, agents and devices, surgical ligatures, sutures, bandages, absorbent cotton, disinfectants, bacteriophages, adhesive plasters, gelatin capsules and antiseptic solution.”

But despite possessing expertise, Drap was not involved in the implementation of the standards resulting in a large number of imported sanitisers available in the market, but no mechanism to ensure that the quality standards was being met. Even technical experts have expressed concerns over this.

Young Doctors Association President (Punjab chapter) Dr Salman Haseeb said many hand sanitisers available in the local market are ineffective against coronavirus, which was a serious issue as this would eventually lead to rise in cases.

“Rising coronavirus cases will have a serious consequence on the already fragile health system,” Dr Salman said, adding that, “There is need for a joint effort by the PSQCA, Drap as well as FIA to ensure that only quality standard sanitisers are being sold in the country.”

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2021

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