Watch out, that cough syrup could be fake

Cold, fever drugs and even Viagra are among illicit products

While the top players of the over Rs 85,000 crore pharmaceutical business are up in arms over what they call rampant spread of counterfeit drugs (allegedly 20 to 25 per cent of total pharma sales) in the country, enforcement agencies and some pharma associations say the situation is not that alarming. But they acknowledged that there are areas which have slowly gained the dubious distinction of being a major source point for such drugs.

Areas of concern

Sources in Central as well as regional drug enforcement agencies, besides industry experts and police, said Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Haryana and even Himachal Pradesh are some areas of concern when it comes to manufacturing of spurious and adulterated drugs.

There are dawa bazars (medicine markets) where one can easily get consignments of fake medicines, especially in Agra, Patna, Lucknow and Ghaziabad, they said.
The maximum of such illicit products are in the “fast-moving drug category”, which includes medication for cough, fever, cold and even Viagra, sources said.

Drug controller officials said the racket was so well entrenched that criminals have their own line of production and supply chain targeting mainly rural areas.

While the presence of spurious or adulterated medicines in major cities like Delhi is “negligible”, sources said it has become a major transit point for drug cartels.
“Delhi has an excellent transport system and better infrastructure. Drugs come in from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh into the national capital which are then diverted to other neighbouring states like Rajasthan,” an official source said.

“It does not need much investment to set up an illicit manufacturing unit. Such units can function from even small garages. The profits can be as high as 90 per cent,” the source said.
Factory busted
Early this year, drug authorities had busted a factory in Noida which was making fake cough syrups of a particular brand, frequently used by children.
The bottles contained nothing but certain chemicals. They were being filled into bottles by using bathroom buckets and mugs, sources said.

Established firms too are not out of the loop when it comes to substandard drugs.
The Delhi Drug Control Authority had recently seized a consignment of a top pharma firm after random checking conducted by it showed that a particular batch of tablets contained only 30-60 per cent of the stipulated chemical component.

The samples have now gone for second testing after the company challenged the claims of the department.

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) too busted two such factories in Maharashtra recently seizing about 2,000 kg of Alprazolam and Diapam tablets, used for treating anxiety and muscle problems.

The factories in Aurangabad and Thane districts each had been making the drugs (substandard) without having any licence from excise department and even the Food and Drug Authority of India, DRI officials said.

Rackets

Last year, two major spurious drug rackets were busted in Gurgaon and Chennai. In Gurgaon on the outskirts of Delhi, 12 counterfeit drugs were detected and materials used for production seized while in Chennai, three cases of illegal import of bulk drugs (2,900 kg) from China were detected at its port.

“There is no official data but various reports suggest that the spread of such products could be anywhere between 20 to 25 per cent of the actual market,” said Harinder Sikka, director of corporate affairs at Piramal Healthcare.

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