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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Devil in disguise: Health concerns mount over rising tide of fake medicines 

  • Fake medicines harm public health, sold nationwide
  • Expert demands arrests, separate tribunal for justice
Update : 30 Apr 2024, 09:36 AM

Fake products–even life-saving ones like medicines–have been abundant for a long time in Bangladesh. When medications, which are sometimes the difference between life and death, are counterfeit or substandard, they put the health of the country's citizens at risk. 

Concerns have been growing as the production and marketing of fake drugs have not been stopped yet. Experts say people will suffer if they take these fake drugs.

These medicines are easily accessible across pharmacies in Dhaka, with unethical traders targeting unsuspecting patients. 

Despite prior reports, recent arrests and subsequent findings have reignited concerns about the prevalence of fake medicines.

Experts have called on the authorities to arrest those who make fake medicines and ensure they receive just punishment, suggesting the creation of a separate tribunal if necessary. People will continue to suffer otherwise, according to them.

Police action

Recently, the Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police has received information about some pharmacies in the capital carrying fake medicines. It says that some gangs are involved in the production and distribution of these fake drugs. Numerous members of these gangs have already been arrested, and detectives are working on tracking others connected with this heinous crime.

Detectives arrested four persons involved in making vials of counterfeit vaccines and medicines in raids in Kotwali and Keraniganj on April 7, recovering products worth approximately Tk1 crore.

After the operation, the DB said a group was manufacturing this Korean vaccine in Keraniganj, which cost about Tk4,500 in the local market. It used to sell this drug, vital for pregnant women, with a fake seal, when it was actually a tetanus vaccine which cost only Tk10. This ring would manufacture not only Hepabig but also vitamin D3 ampoules, Resogam, Clopixol Depot, Fluanxol Depot and various local and foreign fake antibiotic medicines.

They would collect raw materials from the medicine market in the Mitford hospital area to produce and market various domestic and foreign drugs. There are instances where people have died after taking these drugs.

The DB said the group had raked in crores of taka by selling fake medicines.

Previously, in March, the agency arrested three members of another gang involved in manufacturing fake medicines in Badda and Jatrabari areas.

According to the DB, G-Pethidine is administered–during or after surgery–with caution by doctors to relieve the pain of mothers in labour. The aforesaid ring had been counterfeiting and distributing such an important drug for seven to eight years by “turning” the tranquillizer G-Diazepam into the anaesthetic G-Pethidine. It should be noted that only one domestic pharmaceutical company has permission to manufacture G-Pethidine.

They would buy G-Diazepam from the Mitford area for Tk8 each. Afterwards, the ring would soak the ampoules with acid and remove the writing on them. Then its members would imprint G-Pethidine on them with a screen printing frame made of wood and plastic. These ampoules would then be arranged in plastic trays and the G-Pethidine foil paper would be added with a hand-operated machine. Later, these fake G-Pethidine would be sold at Tk600 each.

Law enforcement agencies have also been making arrests and imposing fines for making fake drugs and carrying expired medicines. However, there is growing concern as to why authorities have not been able to stop the supply of fake medicines.

Rajib Al Masud, deputy commissioner (DC) at DB Motijheel Division, said the agency had arrested several gangs involved in the sale and manufacture of fake drugs. “We have already found evidence that a pharmacist of Baridhara General Hospital has ties with such rings. He has been detained.”

These gangs were supplying fake medicines to various other pharmacies in the capital, he said, before promising legal action against all involved.

These drugs were causing harm to people instead of benefitting their health, DB chief Harunor Rashid said. 

Fake medicines would be packaged in such a way that the masses would have not way of knowing which one was real and which one was fake, he added. 

“They (gangs) were supplying these medicines to various districts of the country as well as the drug market next to Mitford Hospital. These medicines are sold at pharmacies of many hospitals in the capital.” 

Expert opinion

Public health expert Dr Lenin Chowdhury said the manufacture and sale of fake medicines was pushing people to the brink of death. “These people are also suffering financial losses. I would like to ask the pharmacy traders who, in the clutches of fraudsters, sell these fake medicines to others for the sake of making profits–is there a guarantee that your children, parents and family members will not take these medicines?”

He demanded the arrest of everyone involved in making fake drugs and ensuring exemplary punishment for them. 

"If necessary, they should be tried in a separate judicial tribunal. Otherwise, they will continue to spread their influence across the country and the general public will have to suffer its consequences.”

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