“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Arshad examines the new State Drug Policy. Arshad’s article is followed by an editorial in the Kashmir Images

(Syed Arshad Hussain Kashani, 38, was born and brought up in Srinagar. After finishing schooling, he did my bachelors in Science from the Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He completed his Masters degree from Kashmir University in Bio-Chemistry in 1996. He worked outside of Kashmir for a short period and then returned to the valley where he is self-employed. Arshad is an independent commentator who writes occasional articles. He loves playing cricket since his childhood, and has keen interest in history, taking great interest in developments around the world.)

The State Drug Policy

The much awaited and debated Drug Policy is drafted and finally approved by the brilliant brains of our society – The Cabinet of Law Makers. The policy was primarily aimed to take
care of the society especially in terms of providing a quality health care. As
per reports in the local media, the main change in the existing status is that
the doctors will have to prescribe the generic names of the drugs and not any
particular brand of the said drug. This the experts found only way to ensure
that quality product is delivered to the customer.This is gross innocence and is
bound to prove counterproductive keeping in consideration the main objective of
the drug policy. This change is going to create a legal mess in the state.
J&K is selling the drugs mainly manufactured and marketed in India under
Indian rules and regulations. As such there is nothing like a Drug monopoly but
instead thousands of the brands of the same product compete in the market that
is mainly defined by the prescription of a doctor.

What this policy will do is that the competition of these products will be
settled at the chemist counter and will be mainly determined by the profit
margins the man in question will enjoy. That is where one feels sick of the idea
we are going to get trapped in. Another tragedy is in the making as certain
molecules are very much resembling but entirely different in character that can
prove detrimental keeping into consideration the rush hour sale of drugs from
the market e.g. the S-Amlodipine and Amlodipine, S-Omperezole and Omperezole,
Cetrizine and Levo-Cetrizine, L-Lysine etc.

This is a fact that a lot of
doctors get obliged by the companies for prescribing their brands and now it
will be a chemist. The drug dispensation level in our state is not a shade of
the same in the markets our cabinet is influenced by to do the same for us. Now
it will be the turn of a chemist to bargain for and sell the brand of his
choice. The question is how this change will ensure a quality drug sale – I
doubt, rather fail to understand the logic behind this move. Instead the risk
factor is quite high given the number of brands of the same molecule that will
be competing only on the margin factor in the market. Since money is involved in
this trade, the only criteria now will be to swell the chemist margin and it is
going to be a mess.

A generic brand is sold to the chemist with approximately
500% margin that is what has been ignored by the policy makers. Given the number
of brands of the same molecule in the market it will be next to impossible to
trace and track the product that patient has consumed as patient has only
generic name with him and the product sold by a chemist has no hold to be
probed. By prescribing a brand there was a proof what patient has consumed by
valid doctor prescription. It will be very difficult now to single out the
problematic brand out of the crowd.

This is going to be a legal mess in the
state soon as high profitability at chemist level may take away the quality from
the product. Agreed doctors are obliged by Pharma-companies for prescribing
their products/brands. However in turn doctors also get periodic medical
bulletins, sponsorship for/on medical updates, conferences and so on. Different
molecules are launched long after a particular doctor is out of a medical
college and the study material, drug trials etc are made available to doctors by
these Pharma-companies only and in return they need business. With this new law
this practice will be a closed chapter and society as a whole is going to
suffer.

The men behind the Drug policy know better what they are up to;
however they need to know an important factor i.e. going by generic names is
possible in the places where there is monopoly of the molecules and no choice is
left at the chemist counter. Let them consult the proper experts again before
putting it to practice.

Prudent Decision

(Editorial in the Kashmir Images)

The cabinet decision to adopt the State Drug Policy is a welcome step that at last saw the approval from those who have been trumpeting it for decades but could not join heads to give it the final shape. Better late than never may be true but in the context of drug policy, it proved disastrous as its absence consumed thousands of lives. Our state remained the main consumer of the drug and medicines manufacturing companies for the last many decades.

Billions of rupees would just go in purchase of the medicines and in return the benefits were proportionally quite low or at times adverse, to say the least. This is all because Jammu and Kashmir, particularly Valley became a dumping ground for the companies that churned out spurious drugs and made Kashmiris to use them through their tentacles in the form of compliant doctors and the collaborator distributors. While as the general health level elsewhere showed positive trend, the same took a receding curve in the Valley. This is because of the spurious and sub standard drugs and medicines that are easily available and that too in abundance in our markets.

There are more medical shops in the Valley than in entire north India put together. Government on its part remained a mute spectator leaving the masses to fend for themselves in the ocean of spurious drugs. More paradoxical part of this mafia type system is the involvement of doctors in promoting spurious drugs in the Valley thus playing havoc with the health of the people for no fault of theirs. On one hand people are victim of a disease or mishap and on the other those who are supposed to play messiah, turn out to be the cheaters by resorting to drugs that are in no way helpful to the recuperation of the patient but just fattened the pockets of such conscience- less doctors. For decades people have been raising the issue, sometimes vociferously, but the rulers paid no heed because it is thought that many politicians have been part of the mafia and they reaped the ‘benefits’ by delaying the introduction of the drug policy.

If some conscientious doctors are to be believed, more than sixty percent drugs currently in the medical shops is of spurious quality and has the potential to aggravate the disease or ailment that they will be prescribed for. If such is the scenario in the Valley, then how government can afford to close its eyes from such grave issue? Now that the State Drug Policy has got the cabinet approval, the real test has to be seen in the field. An estimated five thousand medical shops are running in the valley alone which are without licenses. Besides, there is an army of quacks found in every nook and corner of the Valley who have been playing with the lives of people for decades. They need to be weeded out without delay.

There has to be strict vigilance on the drugs prescribed by doctors and any doctor found relying on or deliberately prescribing spurious drugs must be punished severely and his certificate declared null and void. Now that enforcing agencies have a weapon in the form of State drug Policy with them, they must use it for the benefit of the people of the state as healthy nations do wonders in every field. Besides, Kashmiris will be ridden of the unnecessary burden on their purses for having to take extra drugs and time in recuperation.