The Bold Voice of J&K

Dirty nexus

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Concerned over reports that some doctors at government hospitals are prescribing unnecessary medicines to promote the products of some specific companies the Jammu and Kashmir Government’s move to set up a panel to check the practice is a welcome step. The Minister for Health, Bali Bhagat, said the government will put in place a foolproof mechanism for keeping a record of prescriptions written by the doctors in all hospitals to discourage the “unhealthy” practice. A duplicate copy of the prescription will be kept in the hospital record for an audit. A doctor will have to prescribe medicines according to the drugs available in the hospital. In case a medicine is not available in the hospital store, they are required to prescribe the generic drug as an alternative, the minister had said. Doctors are required to prescribe only “genuine and necessary” medicines as per the government supply. The Jammu and Kashmir Government has made available free drugs since 1st June under the “free drug policy” for the patients undergoing treatment in State-run hospitals.  There are numerous instances of patients suffering serious side-effects after taking prescribed medications, as they were unaware of the drug’s possible adverse reaction. So are patients being given the short shrift? It appears to be the case, as companies in India are not communicating safety risks and adverse reactions associated with certain medications and neither the doctors informing patients about the same. Some antibiotics and painkillers are not recommended for use during pregnancy, while some have been banned for lactating women. Most of the pharma companies feel communicating safety information to patients is akin to advertising, and hence would be in violation of the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act. “Since it’s not mandatory to provide package insert or a patient medication guide, individual medicine strips do not carry it. Only certain medicines carry these inserts in a pack of 5 to 10 strips,” an executive with a leading company said.  While Indian pharma companies have adopted several global practices voluntarily, why have they chosen to ignore an important aspect of patient safety? More importantly, why hasn’t the law been tightened?

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