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Sample backlog boost to fake drug trade

Samples of suspected substandard pills are piling up at the skeletal-staffed Combined Food and Drug Laboratory at Agamkuan, allowing fake medicine traders go scot-free.

Test on around 2,500 samples is pending at the state’s only laboratory to check the quality of drugs in the absence of sufficient number of drug analysts and technicians. There is only one drug analyst at the lab. Against the sanctioned strength of seven technicians, just two work here.

Admitting to huge backlog of cases, state drugs controller Hemant Kumar Sinha said: “Even if we collect a large number of samples, we can’t get them tested because of hands shortage.”

Sinha said 108 of the 347 samples collected in April were tested. Only 96 of the 441 samples collected in May were tested. In June, only 107 samples were tested, while the number of collected samples was 415. In July, 49 of the 459 samples collected were tested. In August, only 102 of the 357 samples collected were tested and in September less than a thousand of around 2,000 samples were tested.

Sources in the drugs controller’s office said the huge backlog of cases at the laboratory would make things complicated in the long run. “That fake and substandard drugs are in circulation in the state is obvious from 12 out of 954 samples tested last year being substandard. This year, 13 samples were below par. Also, a fake drug was found. If the testing of samples gets delayed, those involved in the business of fake and spurious drugs would go scot-free and people would end up buying fake and substandard drugs harmful for their health,” said a drug inspector.

Sinha, the state drugs controller, said things would change soon. “We shall recruit technicians and drug analysts on contract. Besides, we have tied up with three labs based in Calcutta, Indore and Mumbai. We shall be sending our samples there after December 15 for testing.”

A drug inspector still sounded sceptical. “The laboratory is not well equipped. Even after the appointment of drug analysts and technicians, the problem of backlog of cases would persist. The laboratory does not have equipment like chromatography machine. Only cough syrups and few pills can be tested here. Antibiotics, especially injections, cannot be tested in the laboratory because of lack of equipment,” he added.

Chromatography is the broad term for laboratory techniques designed for separation or analysis of complex mixtures. Chromatography equipment includes all the components needed for separation

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