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2024-06-01 11:46:17

Counterfeit drug puts patients at risk

Jayashree Bhaduri

Counterfeit drug puts patients at risk

An organized gang has been producing and distributing counterfeit drugs in Bangladesh for over a decade, putting patients' lives at risk, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) revealed following the arrest of five gang members. Factories in Savar and Cumilla manufactured fake antibiotic tablets and capsules using flour and semolina, which were then stored in Barisal before being distributed nationwide through courier services.

The gang's fraudulent activities extended to counterfeit albumin injections, used in treating liver cirrhosis. The use of these adulterated drugs has led to severe complications and even deaths among patients, forcing doctors at hospitals such as Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), and Dhaka Medical College Hospital to refrain from using albumin.

Dr. Chanchal Kumar Ghosh, a gastroenterology professor at BSMMU, emphasized the grave risk posed by adulterated drugs, stating, "If the medicine is adulterated, the patient's life is at risk. Adulterated albumin is occasionally found. Albumin itself may react. Sometimes the patient needs ICU. If there is adulteration in it, it becomes difficult to save the patient.”

Despite the passage of the Medicines and Cosmetics Act-2023, which prescribes up to 10 years in jail and a fine of Tk 10 lakh for manufacturing counterfeit drugs, enforcement remains weak. The Department of Drug Administration imposed fines totaling Tk 1.73 crore in 2023 through various court raids, but information on jail terms for counterfeit drug offenses is lacking.

DB sources indicated that counterfeit drugs for ailments such as gastric issues, cancer, diabetes, and kidney problems are being sold in packaging indistinguishable from genuine products, making it difficult for consumers to identify fakes.

DMP Additional Commissioner Harun-or-Rashid highlighted the severity of the issue, stating, "People take medicine to prevent diseases and save lives. But life-saving drugs are adulterated! We are conducting regular operations to catch the gangs involved in the manufacture and marketing of adulterated drugs."

Some pharmacy owners, particularly in Mitford, are allegedly complicit in distributing these counterfeit medicines, which reach buyers even in rural areas. Former President of Sir Salimullah Medical College Teachers Association, Professor Dr. Monilal Aich Litu, called for maximum punishment for those involved in food and drug adulteration, noting the lack of exemplary punishments so far.

Taling to Bangladesh Pratidin, Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr. Samant Lal Sen asserted that the drug administration department is responsible for preventing drug adulteration and has been directed to take strict action.

(The report was published on print and online versions of The Bangladesh Pratidin on June 1 and rewritten in English by Tanvir Raihan)

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