Alarmed at the growing menace of fake drugs, pharmaceutical companies have decided to write to the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government to ensure more “pro-active efforts” on the part of the drug control directorate and the police to curb the problem.
Bipin Mehta, president of the Bengal Chemists and Druggists Association, said a meeting will soon be held on this issue. “We have informed all 5,000 traders in Calcutta to check all supplies from now on to stop fake drugs from getting into their stocks through unknown dealers who push them,” Mehta added.
Moderate estimates put the fake drug market in the country at a staggering Rs 3,000 crore-plus, almost 15 to 20 per cent the size of the legitimate market.
“It is hard to believe, but it is a fact that 15 per cent of the drugs in the market are fakes,” says Asish Roy, director of StadMed, a city-based manufacturer of popular drugs like Alkasol, Enteroquinol and Zolam.
“Fast-moving medication, like painkillers, antibiotics and vitamins, are more prone to being switched by counterfeit drugs,” an anti-counterfeit official for Sun Pharma opined.
Pharma companies have started their own anti-counterfeit strategy. For instance, city-based Herbicure Pvt Ltd (asthma and liver cure products) has, of late, started monitoring drug stores and is marketing bottles with special wraps and going in for embossed designs for blister-pack capsules.
Other pharma majors like Alembic (manufacturers of Roxid and Azithral), Dr Reddy’s (Omez capsules) and Sun Pharma (chronic therapy drugs), too, are heavily banking on special packs.
For instance, Dr Reddy’s has evolved a special anti-counterfeit package design for its most popular Omez capsules, not only in Calcutta but also in Russia.
The capsule pack, now available in the market, has many anti-counterfeit features, such as the embossed brand name, ink-jet coding of batch details and circular printing on capsule shells. The company also has a unique invisible matrix containing a photograph on the side panel of cartons.
The city police and the drug control directorate officials have busted nearly a dozen fake units in North and South 24-Parganas in the past few months, and over a dozen persons have either been arrested or detained in the past two weeks for leads.
“The fake manufacturers keep changing addresses and have men with expertise working in secret factories,” says R.K. Adhikari, deputy commissioner of police (enforcement branch).