GUWAHATI : Fake pharmacies and fake pharmacists, fake doctors, and substandard medicines have been posing a serious threat to public health. It is an unvarnished truth in the state.

A few days ago, the Health Department sealed eight pharmacies at Lahorighat in the Morigaon district. The pharmacies were operating without the required licences. Earlier, the department had sealed several illegally run pharmacies in the interior areas of Nagaon, Barpeta, and Darrang districts.

A few days ago, the CDSCO (Central Drug Standard Control Organization) announced a list of 48 medicines that failed to meet different quality parameters. The list includes calcium, multi-vitamin medicines, antibiotics, heart medicines, etc., of various pharmaceuticals. After that, some of the pharmaceutical companies pulled out some of their medicines from the market. However, several pharmacies in Assam sell such medicines even today.

The arrest of fake doctors is also happening in the state, especially in tea garden, sar and other remote areas. According to the Assam Registered Pharmacists’ Union, the state had around 3,000 pharmacists who had no proper registration, and the registrations of 1,800 of them were cancelled. The rest are still working in the state.

The responsibility to look into all these malpractices lies with the State Health Department. The moot question is: how responsive is the department to the situation?

The department does not inspect if any of the declared substandard medicines are sold in the state. When this reporter queried some of the pharmacies, they could not even say anything about the list of declared substandard medicines. This suggests that patients continue to buy the declared substandard medicines.

Pharmacies without licences dot the outskirts of towns and remote areas, as the business of medicine is dividend-paying. Most of such establishments employ fake pharmacists. The rule goes that every pharmacy has to display the name and registration number of its registered pharmacist in a visible way.

A senior pharmacist said, “A section of pharmacists gives their names and registration numbers on rent to several pharmacies. They earn a huge amount through this practice. Many pharmacies, on the other hand, run their business without employing any pharmacist.”

A patient and his attendants cannot distinguish between fake doctors, substandard medicines, and fake pharmacists. They unknowingly depend blindly on these fake people in good faith. To tame the situation, the Health Department needs to devise a mechanism that can detect all such fakes, or else people will continue to fall victim to substandard medicines and fake practitioners.