LAHORE: Unnecessary drug sampling and poor techniques of testing/analysis in the government laboratories in Punjab to check the components of alternative medicines have raised doubts about the authenticity of the reporting mechanism.
Numerous complaints are emerging that the results of most test reports generated by Punjab government’s five labs are being negated by the National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad when they were challenged in re-testing complaints.
An official associated with the Provincial Quality Control Board (PCQB) unveiled inside picture saying the quality of the drug testing has been compromised owing to two major reasons and the complaints are going unreported. He said the percentage of the drug testing reports of Punjab’s labs challenged in NIH had increased to 70 per cent after the provincial labs failed to check the components of alternative medicines.
He said the drug sampling was being done unnecessarily and the government labs were being headed by inexperienced officials instead of qualified pharmacists. He said the DTLs of Punjab were largely using British and United States pharmacopeias to test /analyse herbal, homeopathic and nutraceutical products ingredients in which they often fail to check alternative medicines.
The official said the alternative medicines could only be checked by methods developed by alternative medicine manufacturers called “Manufacturer’s Specifications”.
“Instead of demanding these methods from alternative medicine manufacturers, our DTLs test these products using British or US pharmacopeias and declare the drugs ‘unregistered’ while reporting that they contain allopathic ingredient,” the official said.
He said unnecessarily increasing the number of sampling for drug testing in Punjab was also damaging resources besides making courts overburdened.
While quoting a recent international report, he claimed, in the USA, the Food and Drug Authority was collecting around 28,000 samples for drug testing annually. On the other hand, a DTL of Lahore collected approximately 40,000 samples annually, he said, adding that the unnecessary litigation had put the alternative medicine industry in severe distress.
He recalled a drug scam at Lahore’s Punjab Institute of Cardiology where several patients had died after using contaminated medicine. He said natural herbs contained allopathic drug ingredients in traces like ephedrine in ephedra vulgaris but a hapless alternative medicine manufacturer is prosecuted for the “innocent” offence.
“It is high time that Research and Development Sections be set up in every drugs testing laboratory comprising formulation scientists who can give expert opinion,” the official said. He said the Quality Control Boards should be manned by experts of relevant field.
He said 30 PhD pharmacists in the health department of Punjab had been posted at irrelevant positions in rural health facilities and government hospitals. The Punjab government should review the policy and utilise the knowledge of these highly qualified and experienced pharmacists by making postings in the DTLs, he suggested.
Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2021