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Dhaka Tribune

Top private hospitals selling unregistered drugs

Update : 22 May 2014, 06:36 PM

Some of the capital’s leading private hospitals are breaking the law by using and prescribing “smuggled” drugs that are not registered with the country’s drug administrations.

On April 24, two teams of the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) made unannounced inspections at seven city hospitals – Square, Apollo, United, Labaid, Central, Samorita, and Health and Hope – to find that doctors there had been prescribing different unregistered drugs to treat patients who were in critical condition.

The teams also seized a large quantity of over 30 different kinds of generic drugs as well as illegal food supplements from the hospitals’ pharmacies. Hospital authorities failed to produce any legal document for the drugs, which were mostly used to treat patients suffering cancer and other complex diseases of the kidney, heart, brain etc.

The Dhaka Tribune has obtained a document listing the names of the generic drugs that were seized.

According to the Drugs (control) Ordinance 1982, no medicine can be stocked, exhibited or sold without being registered with the DGDA.

Although it was unethical to use unregistered drugs, some such foreign medicines were saving the lives of patients in critical conditions, said Dr Rashid-e-Mahbub, president of Health Rights Movement Bangladesh.

The companies that manufactured the drugs were not interested in registering the particular medicines in Bangladesh as the market size was small, said Mahbub, also the ex-president of Bangladesh Medical Association, adding that the drugs were coming from illegal sources as a result.

Dr Jamaluddin Chowdhury, secretary general of Bangladesh Private Medical Practitioners Association told the Dhaka Tribune that any use or sale of unregistered drugs would be a clear violation of the drug control ordinance.

Saifur Rahman Lenin, senior manager (brand and communication) at Labaid Hospital, admitted that food supplements were found on its pharmacy shelf during the surprise visit by the DGDA team, but did not elaborate on allegations of prescribing unauthorised drugs, saying he was unaware about the issue. The drug administration also directed the hospital to follow some guidelines in the future, he added.

Maj Gen Jahangir Hossain Chowdhury, director general of the DGDA, claimed that the most of the seized drugs were smuggled into the Bangladesh from countries including India, the US, the UK, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, France, Netherlands, Turkey, Poland, Hong Kong, Russia, Thailand, Pakistan, and South Korea.

Some of these drugs were also reportedly being brought into the country by airlines passengers known as “luggage party,” who buy the drugs from abroad but later sell the medicines to the local hospitals.

The efficacy and potency of this high price drugs were not tested in the drugs laboratory, sources said. The quality of the drugs was also questionable as none of the seven private hospitals reportedly maintained a cold chain, which is the temperature-controlled supply chain essential for using the sensitive drugs.

Asked about what action had been taken against the seven hospitals, DGDA chief Jahangir said show-cause notices have been served asking them to produce documents for the drugs.

However, several top officials of the DGDA told the Dhaka Tribune that the hospitals have already provided “unsatisfactory” replies to the notices. Most of them reportedly claimed of being ignorant about the necessity of the legal permission, and said they had kept the medicines to save patients’ lives.

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