Delhi’s 25,000 medical stores and blood banks are being inspected by just 21 officials, which means there is no guarantee that the medicine people buy from a pharmacy is safe.
The drugs regulatory body does not have enough manpower to conduct regular inspections of the city’s mushrooming chemist shops and wholesale units, it has emerged.
Against the sanctioned posts of 31 inspectors, the department has only 21 drug inspectors keeping an eye on Delhi’s 25,000 medical stores and blood banks.
Drug inspectors keep a close watch on all medical establishments including hospitals and blood banks
According to officials, while the number of inspectors has declined — or at best remained constant — over the past 40 years, the number of pharmacies has soared from 5,000 to 25,000.
Drug inspectors keep a close watch on all medical establishments including hospitals, blood banks, cosmetic units, manufacturing and surgical units, Delhi government dispensaries and Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) and ESI units.
As per the Centre’s recommendation, Dr Mashelkar Committee report and Task Force Committee’s observation, there should be one drug inspector for every 200 medical shops and one drug inspector for every 50 manufacturing units, according to the official.
As of now, Delhi has just 21 drug inspectors as opposed to 25,000 medicine shops
‘The drug controlling department is under acute pressure as it has huge shortage of inspectors to keep a strong vigilance over medicine stores. As of now, Delhi has just 21 drug inspectors against 25,000 medicine shops. We have sent the proposal for six drug inspectors to UPSC to expand the strength,’ a senior drug controlling officer told Mail Today, requesting anonymity.
For the drug controlling department, pharmaceutical products are always under scanner which includes buprenorphine (used to treat opiate addiction), codeinebased cough syrups, and sedatives like alprazolam and diazepam.
The department has allotted specific areas to the drug inspectors
Pointing towards the growing workload on drug inspectors, a senior official said: ‘A long time ago, these 31 posts were created on the basis of 5,000 medical shops that time.
‘But today, the number has increased to over 25,000, and 21 drug inspectors are not enough to look after the growing segment. Therefore, more posts for inspectors should be created.’
The department has allotted specific areas to the drug inspectors, who keep a track of complaints and investigate, collect samples and ensure the sale and supply of quality medicines in their vicinity.
The official added: ‘Even though we are fewer in number, the department is conducting special inspection programmes twice a week.
‘Every month, each drug inspector has to collect at least three legal samples, 10 survey samples and two specimen samples. The main targets are the government and private hospitals and in a month there are about seven-eight raids.’
Inspectors are struggling to keep a watch on the city’s pharmacies
These raids are made under the Drugs & Cosmetics Rule 1945. In relation to recent raids made by the drug regulatory department, the official said: ‘We have acted against 18 chemists who were caught red-handed selling habit forming drugs such as Avil, Diazepam, Proxyvon, Tramadol injections and Corex syrup that lead to substance abuse.
‘We have cancelled the licences of these shops that are located at Mahendra Park in north Delhi, Vishnu Garden in west Delhi, Vijay Vihar in northwest Delhi, and Seelampur in northeast Delhi.’
Also, Bhagirath Place is one of the ‘red zones’. Making a strong move against these chemist shops, the department has decided not to issues a fresh licence to the apprehended chemist shop owners.
‘As a precaution, no fresh licence would be issued to chemists in future at Mahendra Park and Vishnu Garden as it was found that they are not deterred by our action. We found that even after cancelling the licence for a particular shop in the past, the chemists operated with a different name and continued to sell the drugs,’ he said.
The department is also facing another problem: ‘We don’t have much space in the department. It becomes very difficult for our inspector to stock the drugs which we procure and seize during raids. These medicines are supposed to be kept safe for the court proceedings. As of now, we have only one room to store the recovered medicines and that too it is totally full.’