Drugs crunch to persist with licences of three manufacturers suspended

Kathmandu, October 17

Shortage of essential drugs is likely to persist for weeks if not months, as the Good Manufacturing Practice licence of three drugs manufacturers tasked with supplying more than 20 types of medicines suspended by the drug regulatory authority.

Health facilities across the country lack most of the essential drugs as the health ministry has not procured drugs for the last three years.

Patients are thus buying medicines from private dispensaries although they have the right to get these essential drugs free of cost at government health centres.

Department of Drug Administration, the national drug regulatory authority, recently suspended the GMP licences of SR Drugs Laboratories Pvt Ltd, Arya Pharma Lab Pvt Ltd and Taurus Pharma Pvt Ltd, which were authorised to supply 20 types of essential medicines.

GMP is a system, which ensures products are consistently produced and controlled according to quality standards. It is designed to minimise risks in pharmaceutical production. The DDA said products of these companies had failed to meet the required standard and the companies were even engaged in malpractice.

“We cannot buy medicines from companies that have been blacklisted or have their licenses suspended by another government agency,” said Dr Bhim Singh Tinkari, director at the Logistics Management Division of the Department of Health Services.

He informed it would take months to procure medicines following government procedures. “The crisis will therefore be prolonged,” Dr Tinkari said.

According to Dr Tinkari, the LMD had sought 49 drugs out of the 104 varieties that it had to procure this year. Among the 49 drugs that the LMD had sought, it can now get only 29 as the three companies that had pledged to supply 20 drugs were blacklisted by the DDA.

Tinkari concedes that government health facilities throughout the country lack essential drugs.

“We have asked District Public Health Offices to purchase medicines on their own,” he added. The DPHO can purchase medicines worth Rs 300,000 directly and worth one million rupees issuing a tender notice of 15 days.

However, most of the DPHOs expressed reluctance to purchase medicines on their own saying they might face action from the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority, said Tinkari.

The drug crisis is not only limited to health facilities in far flung VDCs of remote districts, but also in Kathmandu Valley. “Our health facilities lack even cetamol and deworming tablets,” said Mahendra Prasad Shrestha, chief of Kathmandu DPHO. He said that poor people who could not afford to buy essential medicines had been deprived of drugs for a long time.

“There are some who think that people in Kathmandu do not need free medicines. This is not true,” he said, adding that many urban poor will be deprived of essential drugs, if they are not distributed free of cost.

According to Shrestha, thousands of urban poor, slum dwellers and labourers have benefited from the government’s programme.

The MoH has committed to provide 70 types of medicines for communicable and non-communicable diseases to district hospitals, 45 to primary health care centers and 35 to health posts across the country.