New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India has taken suo motu cognizance of a newspaper article that a large number of drugs are being sold in India with identical brand names for treating entirely different conditions. Reportedly, the consequences of confusion between these medications at the pharmacy can be serious for patients as these drugs are being prescribed by the doctors for treatment of different diseases. Reportedly, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) would first have to build a database of all pharmaceutical brand names by collecting data from the 36 different Drug Controllers in each State and Union Territory as there is no such database in the country. Also, no data on prescription errors is being maintained by the authorities.

The Commission has observed that the contents of the article, if true, amount to a serious issue of human rights. Accordingly, it has issued notices to the Secretary, Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and the Drugs Controller General of India calling for a detailed report in the matter within 4 weeks. It should include steps taken/proposed to be taken to address the issue.

The newspaper article, carried on 25th January, 2024, has given examples of many such drugs having identical names but being prescribed for treating different ailments. A drug with the name ‘Linamac 5’ is used to treat multiple myeloma, which is a type of cancer and the other drug bearing the name ‘Linamac’ is used to treat diabetes.

Reportedly, another medicine being sold under the brand name ‘Medzole’, is used by four different companies to sell four different active ingredients, treating entirely different medical conditions. The first company uses ‘Medzol’ to sell a drug containing ‘Midazolam’ which is used as a sedative. The second company uses the name ‘Medzole-DSR’ to sell a combination of domperidone and pantoprazole which is used to treat stomach acidity. A third company uses the name ‘Medzole 400’ for a formulation containing albendazole that is used in deworming treatment for children. A fourth company uses ‘Medzole 200’ for a formulation containing Itraconazole, which is a powerful antifungal drug used to treat diseases such as “black fungus”. The article, further speaks about another problem i.e. use of similar trade names by companies which seem to be phonetically and visually similar. Quoting an example it is stated that while one company uses the brand ‘Medpol’ to sell paracetamol, a second company uses the brand ‘Medrol’ to sell a corticosteroid and a third company uses ‘Metrozole’ to sell an antibiotic. These names sound phonetically similar to ‘Medzole’ and also similar to each other with only a letter or two substituted.

Not only this, another serious problem has been identified relating to the use of identical or similar names to sell different active ingredients as contraceptives by the same company itself, the news release says..