Ranchi, Oct. 23: Vigilance sleuths today launched a crackdown on state-run hospitals in 11 districts to crack the spurious drug racket estimated to have robbed the state exchequer of at least Rs 24 crore in the past two years.
Preliminary reports indicate that the fraud was largely an extension of unified Bihar’s Rs 300 crore-plus medical stores scandal mostly involving civil surgeons posted in backward and disease-prone districts.
The Telegraph had reported on October 17 that documents collected by the government suggested that at least seven civil surgeons allegedly siphoned off more than Rs 24 crore by supplying fake and spurious medicines to hospitals and primary health care units since the creation of Jharkhand.
For instance, while Karnataka Drugs and Pharmaceuticals manufactures 31 life-saving drugs, documents seized showed that 67 varieties of such products of the company were supplied to the state.
Similarly, Maharashtra Drugs and Pharmaceuticals, which has long ceased to be in existence, was reportedly supplying a number of life-saving drugs.
Sources said that two days ago, the government granted the go-ahead to a simultaneous crackdown by the vigilance department in 11 districts. The department had been asked to chalk out an action plan for the operation with instructions that the crackdown should be started in all the designated districts at the same time to ensure that none of the guilty could escape.
The sources said that before flashing the green signal, the government had asked all civil surgeons to file their opinions on reports of fake drugs allegedly distributed to government hospitals and health care units in their respective districts.
The civil surgeons of Dumka and Hazaribagh had conceded in their reports that fake and “ineffective” drugs had been distributed to sick patients by hospitals and primary health care units, the sources said.
Investigators first collected from the health department all documents related to plan allocations for medicine procurements approved by the government since November 15, 2000.
Thereafter, they fanned out to all districts, reaching their destinations by late last evening before commencing the simultaneous crackdown in 11 districts — Ranchi, Garhwa, Palamau, Hazaribagh, Chatra, Koderma, Dumka, Pakur, Sahebganj, Dhanbad and Bokaro.
Sources said that at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences in Ranchi, the investigators began examining all procurements of medicines, along with surgical equipment and spares, made in the past three years.
An exhaustive probe of the RIMS medical stores has also started with focus on dates of manufacture and expiry and names of suppliers and manufacturers of each drug. The information is being cross-checked with documents listing their procurement.
RIMS medical officer S.K. Choudhury and stores officer Raj Kishore have been asked to stand witness to seizures.
Similar confiscation of documents was made in all the 11 districts. Once the documents are collected, the investigators will try and identify the companies and the people and suppliers involved in the operation of supplying expired and fake drugs.