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Production of risky drugs must stop

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THE High Court asked the government to stop producing and marketing of antibiotic, penicillin and hormone drugs of 28 pharmaceutical companies with immediate effect. Furthermore, the court also issued a rule asking the concerned authorities of the government to explain why the earlier HC ban on production and marketing of those drugs has not been executed. The High Court order came disposing a writ from a human rights body seeking the court's intervention to stop production and marketing of such drugs in public interest.

Producing and marketing of substandard drugs is not anything new in Bangladesh, despite a number of court rulings we have witnessed in the past that went unheeded. Barely ten months ago the Health and Family Welfare Ministry had decided to cancel license of 20 pharmaceutical companies for producing sub-standard and fake drugs. But they didn't stop their operation rendering the HC ruling almost ineffective.  

We have our markets flooded with substandard and counterfeit medicines. Substandard products arise from poor quality control using poor manufacturing practices while counterfeit products are the 'products' of criminals. Considering the vast scale of global pharmaceutical industry and the incidence of potentially fatal diseases -- any amount of poor-quality medicine is unacceptable since it increases morbidity and also mortality. That said, we fail to comprehend why the Ministry of Health, besides other concerned authorities, is repeatedly failing to address this prevailing dilemma.

According to a report last year, many companies have repeatedly and grossly failed to ensure good manufacturing practices (GMP) in Bangladesh, and yet continue producing substandard medicines. We don't know how they managed to run, but one thing is clear that medicine quality assurance and regulatory authorities are not fairly functioning.  

It can't be said that the government is not serious in battling the menace of poor and counterfeit medicines, but the question is again why it can't prevent the criminal practice so detrimental to public health. We suggest that regulatory bodies must address their limitations in this regard. We believe, banning of innumerable drug manufacturing companies will not solve the problem overnight, what we clearly need is to chalk-out effective policy outlines and strengthen the institutional capacity to implement the policies so that companies will not shut the doors but overcome shortcomings. Producing quality medicine is a highly critical issue. Companies must comprehend gambling with public health. Ii is serious offence that they must avoid and be punished if they continue to do so.

In our view the Directorate of Health Service and Drug Administration must take effective steps for the people to get right medicines.

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