Selling expired drugs
The sick in this State have become targets of a whole army of cheats and fraudsters. They are denied proper and timely treatment in private hospitals and nursing homes; they are overbilled and over-charged; they are forced to spend money on totally unnecessary medical tests; their discharge from hospitals is delayed on one pretext or another to inflate their bills. And now has been exposed yet another form of cheating: selling medicines whose efficacy dates have expired by reprinting or overprinting dates. A section of dishonest drug dealers and the owner of a printing press in Kolkata have been caught running this highly profitable racket which is deadly to the patients.
Drugs which have passed their expiry dates used to be brought to a printing press in the Canning Street area. Then nail polish was used to remove the original expiry dates and new dates were printed. Then the drugs were ‘recycled’. Those in this business are certainly very ingenious but they used their ingenuity not for the good of the people but to earn money at the cost of the lives of the patients. Now anyone visiting a pharmacy will have to take a sharp look to find out whether the expiry date printed on the strip of medicines has been tampered with and whether he has been taken for a ride with or without the connivance of the pharmacy. Even if he finds something suspicious, he does not know whom to turn to for remedial action.
There is yet another aspect to the expiry date fraud. Pharmacologists know that many drug manufacturers are deliberately shortening the shelf life of drugs. The shelf life of a drug which can be safely used for three or four years is reduced by one or two years. Under the law, the storing and selling of expired drugs is a criminal offence. Therefore drugs whose printed shelf life has expired have to be thrown out even if they can be safely used for treatment. Limiting the expiry date helps the drug manufacturers to produce and sell more drugs and make more profit. More and more drug manufacturers are resorting to this practice. It is difficult to take action against them under the existing laws. The quality of medicines is another aspect. Beyond the claim of the manufacturers that they follow strict norms of quality control, the government has practically no machinery to check periodically the quality of the medicines that are being sold. The patient is always at the receiving end.