When medicines become fatal -Action against ‘fake’ pharmacists unlikely due to lack of effective initiatives in Assam



The Editor

TNT- The Northeast Today

Respected Sir/Madam

In Assam, the Assam Pharmacy Council is contemplating stringent action against ‘fake’ pharmacists operating without the required qualifications  and has cancelled registration of 730 such pharmacists while verifying that close to 1600 registrations are fake. Another 3,000 ‘fake’ pharmacists are on the radar of the council. There are 10,000 registered pharmacists in the state of Assam, which implies that nearly 25% of Assam’s registered pharmacists are fake.

The big questions is- How long will it actually take to execute and arrest such malpractices and allow fake pharmacists to dispense medicines to the people of Assam? The responsibility of the State Pharmacy Council is to initiate prompt actions to cancel fake pharmacist license and also to identify and file an FIR against “guilty officials” for registering 2,000 plus candidates having fake/false/fabricated and unapproved Class XII and diploma certificates.

There has been a sharp rise in the number of counterfeit or fake medicines in the markets of Assam. Sub-standard drugs have been a bigger problem than counterfeit drugs in Assam. The use of substandard drugs may result in adverse side effects, treatment failure, resistance, toxicity and even death. More than 5000 local and even external agencies are operating and marketing unauthenticated generic as well as branded medicines in Assam. We may correlate fake pharmacists with fake medicines. It is important that the laws being enforced to prevent this crime in Assam are properly addressed to help the masses at large. The issue however remains: How can a transparent mechanism be adopted in Assam to check and verify companies or counterfeit or substandard medicines by the Drug department and regulatory authorities?

Over a period of one decade, if anyone has analysed the admission and selection procedure of pharmacy candidates in different colleges of Assam, then it can be noticed that a particular community of the society gets almost 70% seats every year in all the reservation segments of the so call merit list of Assam. Is this a biased attitude or any special reservation of pharmacy seats for a particular community in Assam or is it that the community is very much inclined  intellectual towards this profession?

Legal hurdles, lack of awareness and delay in taking action are some of the challenges  the authourities always claim, whereas there are many pioneering and examplary Acts and provisions in India to address counterfiet of drugs. The role of the drug authourities in Assam are conspicuously found to be inactive, whether deliberately or under compulsion.

Streamlining of pharmacist registration process with a professional approach can add value to due deligence process of registered pharmacist. The interventions of the registration and verification committe are always on adhoc mode and merely a fact finding body with no results at all. For a landmark judgement in Assam, an independent, empowered and apolitical committee will have to intervene for a lasting impact in this profession.

Having the right person, at the right time, at the right place, is crucial to performance and professionalism. Fair admission to pharmacy colleges, recruitment and selection of pharmacist is a critical activity for Health Department and for the greater interest of the noble profession of pharmacy.

Yours faithfully 

Kalyan Barua
Assistant Professor, School of Skill Building
SRM University, Sikkim

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