Despite mobile court drives, the illegal business of making and selling adulterated and fake drugs has been going on unabated around the country.
Over the last eight months, more than 700 cases have been filed against various individuals and organisations by mobile courts under the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA).
These cases had been filed on charges of preserving, storing and selling of fake, adulterated, expired, low quality and unapproved drugs.
Some 357 companies and drug sellers have been fined over Tk27.7m. A total of 92 individuals has been handed down various jail terms from 10 days to 2 years by the mobile courts.
Fake and adulterated drugs are being made in the capital, under the very nose of the drug administration.
A mobile court drive on April 20, conducted in three markets in the capital’s Mitford area, seized huge amounts of fake, adulterated and low quality drugs.
42 cases were filed against various individuals and companies. They were also fined Tk4.2m on various charges.
During the drives, the DGDA mobile courts also recovered huge amounts of drugs marked green and red and were actually supplied to various government hospitals for being distributed free of cost to the patients.
Drug traders told the magistrates of the mobile courts that a section of unscrupulous government employees and officials smuggle these free drugs out of the government hospitals.
Sharif Md Farhat Hossain, executive magistrate of a mobile court that works with the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), told the Dhaka Tribune many of these traders continue doing illegal business despite serving jail terms and paying fines.
He said for manufacturing and selling drugs of any kind, a company must secure a license from the DGDA, have the required mechanism for ensuring quality of the products and the required manpower and expertise.
He regretted that most companies had not been following that stipulation.
Sharif, however, claimed that the manufacturing and selling of low quality drugs had been curbed by certain extents over the last few years.
Health sector experts also said the activities of the drug administration had gained a lot of visible momentum in recent times.
They said this was the kind of role that the DGDA should have always played in ensuring that people did not get cheated with sub-standard drugs.
DGDA sources said various mobile courts have fined a total of Tk29.7967m in 494 cases and jailed 91 people to various terms from 10 days to two years in drives conducted from September 2012 to May 2013 on various charges relating to illegal drug sale.
Studies have revealed that many drugs available in the market did not have the main ingredient that they were supposed to, said Pro Vice-Chancellor of East West University Muniruddin Ahmed.
The former Dhaka University Clinical Pharmacy professor also said some of these drugs only contained flour, arrowroot and lactose.
Studies have also revealed that the antacid syrups manufactured by some of the local companies contained only 30-40% of the main substance, while a 250mg antibiotic capsule was often found to contain only 100mg or less of the main component.
DGDA drug supervisor Saikat Kumar Dhar said a man named Russel had been recently arrested at Keraniganj near Dhaka who had, for many years, been manufacturing a Tk2 painkiller pill and selling it in the market by wrapping it in the package of Tk10 pill of a reputed company.
According to the Special Powers Act 1974, the highest punishments for manufacturing and selling fake and adulterated drugs are death and lifetime imprisonment.
But people concerned said these stipulations could not be implemented to the fullest extent due to weaknesses in the legal fabric and lack of initiatives by the authorities.