Sub-standard drugs in government supply chain higher than retail outlets: survey

To improve the quality of drugs the survey recommends improving laboratory infrastructure, setting up a training academy in drugs regulatory sciences


Health ministry conducted a survey over 2014 to 2016 where it examined 47,954 drug samples across 15 different therapeutic categories. Overall, the survey showed that 3.16% of the drug samples were sub-standard and 0.024% were spurious. Photo: Mint
Health ministry conducted a survey over 2014 to 2016 where it examined 47,954 drug samples across 15 different therapeutic categories. Overall, the survey showed that 3.16% of the drug samples were sub-standard and 0.024% were spurious. Photo: Mint

Mumbai: The government drug supply chain, which includes civil hospital stores and government medical stores, has a higher quantity of sub-standard drugs than retail outlets, said a survey by the ministry of health and family welfare.

The health ministry, through the National Institute of Biologicals, conducted a National Drug Survey over 2014 to 2016 where it examined 47,954 drug samples across 15 different therapeutic categories. Overall, the survey showed that 3.16% of the drug samples were sub-standard and 0.024% were spurious.

For drugs obtained from government channels, the estimated percentage of sub-standard drugs was 10.02% and spurious drugs 0.059%. For retail outlets, this was far lower at 3% and 0.023%, respectively.

These numbers show that “there is something amiss in the existing procurement processes,” said the survey. It added that a lack of uniform enforcement may be leading to differences in different states.

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The survey has made several recommendations to improve the overall quality of drugs available in India such as creating a national digital database registry of all distributors, retailers and government sources, improving laboratory infrastructure and setting up a national training academy in drugs regulatory sciences.

The survey also said that a system of third party inspections of retail outlets including in hospitals, dispensaries and wellness centres should be put in place to ensure adherence to the requirement of good distribution and storage practices.

“For a large market like India, the number of samples tested in this survey is small. The survey is more directional in nature, which shows that quality of drugs in government channels need improvement. The government’s procurement process has to be more stringent and storage conditions at government hospitals as well as retail outlets need to be upgraded,” Kewal Handa, managing partner at advisory firm Salus Lifecare Pvt. Ltd and former managing director of Pfizer Ltd, said.

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