At Allah’s mercy

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A recent report by Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has made a disturbing disclosure regarding the menace of spurious drugs in Jammu and Kashmir. The national drug survey-2017, released last month, has revealed that 8.37 percent drug samples lifted from government sources were “not of standard quality” ()NSQ). The report adds that the samples lifted from private drug formulation, which were found NSQ, are much higher, making the case of deadly drugs usage more severe than compared to national average. The survey conducted by the National Institute of Biologicals (NIB) provides an in-depth analysis of the scenario of drugs in all states, including J&K. The report while giving an exhaustive state-wise insight into the quality of drugs in government hospitals as well as in the retail market puts NSQ percentage at 3.14 and spurious drugs percentage at 0.0245. J&K stands at a dismal 21st position vis-à-vis quality of drugs in the market. Of 441 drug formulation samples lifted from 74 retail outlets in the J&K market, 15 were found to be NSQ. But the percentage of drug formulations found NSQ was much higher in case of samples lifted from government sources according to the survey. The shocking report came at a time when the Health Minister Bali Baghat threatened doctors of dire consequences if they don’t stop prescribing the sub-standard medicines for the sake of commission. The threat however seems to have worked little as the menace of sub standard drugs, fake companies, standard concerns and much more have become the part of the system in Jammu and Kashmir and no one can deny this fact. Good health is the principal capital asset of any and every individual and the State. Take care of our body, so goes the saying, as it is the only place to live. But it is not only the individual care that makes you healthy. Though prevention is better than cure but that still makes people vulnerable to different health hazards. And here comes the role of the state. It is the responsibility of the state to guard its subjects against these hazards. But it is sordid state of affairs that the threat to healthcare in Jammu and Kashmir comes from the state mostly. Ill-equipped health centres, irresponsible doctors, spurious and sub-standard drug dealers are all what make our health sector. Reports are that drug mafia are facilitated (against huge bribes) by vested interests to operate freely in different parts in the valley. The latest official data says that around 3000 medical shops are currently operating across the valley running the dirty business of fake drugs. While 1200 medical shops have never applied for license, the authorization of nearly 1800 medical shops is reported to have expired. Recently, the state drug department claimed that it has sealed 600 drug establishments in Kashmir division in last six years after they were running without licenses and the authorization of hundreds of establishments were suspended for selling drugs without prescription. However, it has failed to release the names of such drug sellers violating rules under Drugs and Cosmetics Act. What is even more disturbing is that more than fake 200 drugs are presently available for sale in valley markets. Even more shocking is that despite having been declared fake, these drugs are still on sale in the valley, and doctors prescribe them without any sense of shame. Those at the helm of affairs are fully aware of the death-game drug dealers and government officials are playing but are unwilling to act against them. Health Minister, only a few days back, admitted in the state assembly that 83 drugs have been found substandard and misbranded during the last two years. The Kashmir doctors association has described it as a tip of the iceberg. They say that less than 1% of the drugs get checked and more than 99% of medicines are without quality assurance. In fact, whole drug market is under the dragnet of these poor-quality drugs. According to an estimate, 50% drugs consumed by people in Kashmir are substandard. Even life-saving antibiotics, like Amoxicillin and Ceftriaxone, supplied to government hospitals have been found to be unsafe. The latest reports say that spurious drugs are being supplied to government hospitals also. This is nothing less than an organized crime in which official authorities and drug dealers are equally involved. A random survey in valley’s drug market can reveal this grim reality that more than half of the drug sellers and medicine shop owners do operate without licenses from the department. Given this state of affair, it is no exaggeration to say that we are alive only at the mercy of Almighty Allah.

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