As though domestic pharmaceutical companies were not troubled enough by the import of raw materials from China to make medicines, the illegal market of Bangladeshi and other foreign drugs promising cure of various diseases has worsened the situation. This is not only affecting the income of domestic pharma companies but also threatening the lives of patients. Out of all cancer patients who are prescribed certain medicines, 12% reach for fake copies.
According to studies conducted by experts and confirmed by the companies, the grey market of cancer and liver-related drugs sold in the name of big pharma companies, much as they are medicines not approved by the Department of Pharmaceuticals, is expanding. Since these drugs are being smuggled into the country, statistics of the extent of the menace is not available, but according to one estimate, the grey market of drugs for this disease alone is more than Rs 300 crore.
Even CGHS, ESIC buying these ‘cancer medicines’
Cancer pathologists have estimated that 12% of the cancer patients who are advised to take these drugs reach the counterfeiters. The safety and effectiveness of these capsules are not known, as they are not coming into the country by the legal route.
Even clinical trials of these drugs have not been done and they have not got the approval of the drug controllers. What is shocking, even government institutions such as the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) and the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) are purchasing these drugs in unknown terms.
Sources say that the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) recently raised the issue with the government. The government has assured the pharmaceutical companies that steps will be taken against the scourge soon. A source said, “Most of these drugs are manufactured in Bangladesh. They are made for export. If the borders are subjected to a strict vigil, the entry of these drugs into the country can be stopped.”
Cancer drugs, like other drugs, are sold not through retailers, but through distributors. Therefore, it should be easy to identify the people doing this business. Multinationals such as Novartis, Janssen, Astra Janeca, Takeda and Christian are bearing the brunt of this. The reason for this is that the price of a drug like Astra Zeneca’s Ocimumin is more than Rs 2 lakh while a copy of this medicine is available for just Rs 4,500. Many other expensive medicines meet the same fate.
Christian Pharma MD Sanjit Singh Lamba said, “This fraud can be prevented through barcoding on drugs. The government has announced its barcoding for domestic sales, which is currently voluntary. But, we urge the government to make it mandatory.”