The mushrooming dispensaries and street quacks are openly flouting the law by dealing in unprescribed and fake medication. The dispensaries have been found guilty of giving patients unprescribed medication, selling banned drugs and failing to keep record of narcotic and psychotropic drugs. In a 2007 survey, the Department of Drug Administration (DDA) found one in every three dispensaries culpable. Likewise, the street vendors are peddling ‘herbal medicines’ as wonder drugs for chronic diseases like asthma, gastritis and rheumatism. They are notorious for mixing strong allopathic drugs (like steroids) with herbs. Such mixtures may give patients immediate relief but might either harm their health or prove ineffective in the long run.

DDA, to its credit, has stepped up its effort to crack down on unscrupulous drug peddlers. It has now increased the number of drug inspectors from nine to 18. Even so, DDA needs hundreds of inspectors to monitor drug business across the country. Meanwhile, the best bet is to be knowledgeable about the side effects of self-medication and long-term harm of street medicine. Instead of looking up to government to remedy every social ill, the citizens should do their bit to check these malpractices. For instance, they could report DDA about street medicos. Only a coordinated effort of common people and health authorities will help control this sordid business.