The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Raids throw up cache of old drugs with new labels

Barrackpore, April 12: A life-threatening racket in expired and repackaged medicine has been unearthed and at least 7,000 bottles and strips of well-known brands of medicine seized.

The racket spread across a couple of districts and the city involves several lakhs in medicine and machinery.

A string of raids carried out late last night and this morning in North 24-Parganas, Hooghly and Phoolbagan in east Calcutta led to the haul. Three people — Bipul Nandy, Tapas Dey and Mohammad Mustaq — have been arrested. Police are on the lookout for more clogs in the wheel.

The repackaged medicines include cough syrups, digestive tablets and ointments used before and after delivery.

Police sources said the modus operandi involved collecting medicines past expiry dates from dealers and retailers. The racketeers then took the medicines out of the original packing and inserted them in new and similar looking packs with deferred expiry dates.

The only differences were the new manufacturing and expiry dates. The repacked medicine would then be released in the retail market through the normal dealer-distribution network.

“We came to know about a factory in Jagaddal, North 24-Parganas, where the repackaging took place,” said Supratim Sarkar, the Barrackpore additional superintendent of police.

Leading a team of policemen to the factory, Sarkar stumbled upon about 2,000 cartons of various brands of such medicine.

“A middle-aged man, who identified himself as Bipul Nandy, was arrested. From him, we got more names and addresses of godowns where the medicines were stored,” Sarkar said.

The officer and his team then raided a factory-cum-godown in Shyamnagar, about 5 km from the first premises. About 3,000 more cartons of dud drugs were found there. Dey was arrested.

He revealed to the police that there were two more factories at Phoolbagan in the city and at Rishra in Hooghly.

By then, the police had no doubt that the racket was no small-scale affair. Sarkar split his force for simultaneous raids in Calcutta and Hooghly. He led the team that swooped on the Phoolbagan godown around 3 am on Monday.

Once Dey identified the premises, the police surrounded it. “We broke open the gate and saw similar cartons of bogus drugs,” an officer said. “This stock was probably meant for the city.” Two men, though, managed to escape.

The other team cracked down on Burra Masjid Lane in Rishra. Godown owner Mohammed Mustaq was arrested. He told the police that he had earlier worked with a medicine wholesaler for three years.

Sarkar said: “It is likely that Mustaq guided the racket’s distribution network, having known the channels while working at the wholesale concern. More arrests and seizures are likely.”

The drug control directorate, he added, would be involved in future raids.

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