Drug testing in Assam a joke

Only 17 drug inspectors; regiol testing lab only recourse for Assam but reports take six months; no budget provisions for inspectors to procure samples

By Our Staff Reporter

Guwahati, Nov 8: While complaints about sale of spurious and substandard drugs have been piling up, a severe shortage of drug inspectors has hit drug testing and monitoring operations in Assam.

The State currently has only 17 drug inspectors, which means many districts are going without a drug inspector. There are over 20,000 retail drug stores in the State, a good chunk of which also do not have qualified pharmacists.

The Central government had recommended that the requirement of appropriate staff could be considered as one inspector for 50 manufacturing units and one inspector for 200 sales units. Each manufacturing unit or store has to be inspected once every year.

However, in Assam, given the present strength on the ground, the ratio is now one inspector per 1,200 retail stores.

Due to the shortage, the drug control wing of the Health department has not been able to conduct regular inspections of pharmacies across the State. This is how erring pharmacies escape action and sell spurious drugs and violate other norms, because of lack of supervising personnel.

The problem doesn't stop there.

As the State lacks its own testing laboratory, the drug inspectors have to depend on the Regiol Drug Testing Laboratory located at Khapara - which caters to all the Northeastern states.

Health officials admit that it takes six months to one year for inspectors to get test reports from the lab. "By the time the test reports come, that particular batch of drugs from which the samples were collected are exhausted in the stores," said the official.

What is worse, as the State does not have any provision in the budget for the inspectors to buy samples from the stores, they end up testing the samples of the free medicines provided by the government.

"Sometimes, out of benevolence, the pharmacies give the inspectors some samples. But that is not the case always. And why will the inspectors buy the samples from their own pocket?" said an inspector who did not wished to be med.

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