THE directive that the High Court Division on Tuesday gave for the government to remove all date-expired medicines from the market and destroy them in 30 days is welcome. This is an important responsibility of the government to ensure the production and sales of quality drugs for patients in its efforts to increase the level of nutrition and improve public health. The court, as New Age reported on Wednesday, also directed the government to take action against pharmacists and the pharmaceutical companies for marketing date-expired medicines. Respondents that include secretaries to the ministries of health, home, law, commerce and industries and the director general of health services and the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection have been asked to submit separate compliance reports to court at the next hearing on July 16.
The court in a rule also asked the respondents to explain in four weeks why their failure to take action against the sales and storage of date-expired medicines would not be declared illegal and why they would not be directed to take action against the sales and storage of such medicines. The court scolded the health ministry for its failure to prevent the sales and storage of date-expired medicines. The unpalatable fact is that expired medicines were found in 93 per cent of pharmacies in the capital while most pharmacies in outlying areas are at fault keeping some expired medicines at shops. The Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection is reported to have run mobile court drives at 200 pharmacies in the capital city and found expired drugs in about 186 stores. Many establishments have also been fined under the Consumers’ Rights Protection Act for stocking medicines beyond their expiry dates. If pharmacies maintain a lot register and follow the practice of regular turnover of stocks, there will be no scope for date-expired medicines to crowd the shelves. What is even more upsetting is that only the top 20 drug manufacturers take back expired medicines from shops while others remain silent about this. If such a situation prevails in the capital, it is anybody’s guess about the situation that exists in other places.
As the war against date-expired medicines has just begun with the market, which is menaced by medicines beyond expiry dates endangering lives of patients, the government is left with no room for leniency towards pharmaceutical companies in stopping the marketing of date-expired medicines. The respondents have no other options but to act expeditiously to destroy all date-expired medicines after collecting them from pharmacies, in compliance with the court directive, while they must keep watch against irregularities of any sort in medicine marketing.
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