KOCHI: When it comes to seeking treatment for diseases, Malayalees and tourists visiting the state always go the traditional way since they find it safe. The tag of ‘no side effects’ has an attraction of its own when it comes to medicines. However, this belief is being utilised by the unscrupulous to mint money. As per the data from the Ayurveda section of the office of the Drug Controller, Ernakulam, more than 10 cases of substandard ayurvedic medicines are registered every year. According to an official, the number of cases caught is high in Idukki and Ernakulam districts.
“The office of the Drug Controller, Ernakulam, is responsible for drug testing and quality management of medicines being manufactured and sold in Idukki, Alappuzha, Palakkad and Thrissur, besides Ernakulam,” said the official.
“The numbers are high in Idukki and Ernakulam because of their importance as tourist spots,” he added. According to him, the drug controller’s office has received many complaints regarding the use of substandard medicines or medicated oils by the so-called ayurvedic spas.
“Recently, we received a complaint from a tourist who had been to an ayurvedic spa in Idukki. The drug inspectors swung into action and collected samples which, on testing, were found to be of substandard quality,” he said. According to him, besides spas, the drug inspectors also have detected substandard medicines being sold or manufactured in these districts.
“A medication used in the alcohol deaddiction programme which was being sold by a dealer at Puthencruz in Ernakulam was found to be spurious. In another incident, we came across a dealer selling a drug called rheumatodios (purportedly for treating rheumatoid arthritis). This was in Alappuzha district,” he said. In many cases, the medicines were found to be manufactured in Tamil Nadu, he added. According to him, the government has taken various steps to curb the rise in spurious or substandard drugs.
“The reason why the numbers are less not only in the district but also the state is due to the strict monitoring being carried out. Tests and inspections are carried out every month at every manufacturing unit and dealer store. If the inspectors find the drugs to be spurious or of substandard, they direct the dealers or manufacturers to withdraw the same,” said the official.
According to him, the district office detected 11 cases in 2018 and eight cases till date this year. According to the statistics released by the Union Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy, Kerala stands third after Punjab and Tamil Nadu in the country in terms of the number of drugs that have failed the quality tests.
Falling quality, failing hopes
According to the statistics released by the Union Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy, Kerala stands third after Punjab and Tamil Nadu in the country in terms of the number of drugs that have failed the quality tests.
Lack of sufficient drug inspectors, a boon for spurious drug manufacturers
Even as the number of cases of substandard drug seizures is on the rise not only in the district but also across the state, there has been no significant rise in the number of drug inspectors. There are only two health inspectors for the five districts that come under the Ernakulam Drug Controller’s office.
According to an official from the drug controller’s office, there are three posts for drug inspectors in the office. “However, one remains vacant since it has been reserved for a physically handicapped candidate. But, no such criterion has been mentioned by PSC. So, we are short of hands. It becomes very difficult to cover all the areas and many times unscrupulous people slip away. There are only six inspectors for the entire state. The post has been lying vacant for the past 15 years,” he said.