Chandigarh: In its fight against drugs, the Punjab government has tightened the noose around chemists indulging in malpractices by suspending licences of nearly 1,000 shops in the last 10 months.
There are nearly 16,000 retail and 8,000 wholesale chemists across the state. A large number of them have come up in recent years, especially in rural areas. And these reportedly indulge in illegal activities such as sale of habit-forming drugs.
From January to October, 8,024 inspections were conducted and action against the violators were initiated under the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 / Rules 1945. Ninety licences were suspended and 12 cancelled due to contraventions relating to habit-forming drugs. While remaining licences were suspended due to general violation, which include non-availability of pharmacist.
According to the drugs and cosmetic rules, every chemist must have a pharmacist. However, throwing norms to the winds, a large number of these shops operate without a pharmacist. Many were found without proper records too.
The health department managed to recover habit-forming drugs worth Rs 5 crore from 291 units. It also seized oxytocin injections meant for veterinary use from the chemists.
The department also seized habit-forming worth Rs 8 crore from unauthorised sales units. As many as 77 cases were decided under Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 in various courts. In 60 cases, the accused were convicted.
Samples of medicines were taken from 2,831 units, out of which 150 samples did not pass the quality test.
K S Pannu, commissioner food and drug administration, said that dedicated teams regularly inspect chemists across the state. “Strict action is being taken against violators,” said Pannu.
For keeping a close watch on the functioning of chemists, the state government is also coming up with a new policy which will impose a cap on the number of shops that can be allowed in an area. According to the draft prepared by the department, not more than two shops will be allowed in an area without hospital\health centre.
Grappling with shortage
To keep track of the 8,000 chemists, there are only 39 drugs inspectors working in various districts under seven zonal licensing authorities. The shortage of staff and infrastructure was discussed in the civil surgeons’ review meeting held on November 27. Punjab health minister Brahm Mohinhdra, who chaired the meeting, assured that he would address the issue.