Kerala’s Drugs Control Dept. in the grip of staff shortage

Department has only 47 officials across districts to inspect samples

There are around 25,000 institutions in the State with licence to sell drugs, and the annual sales are worth ₹60,000 crore. The Drugs Control Department, however, has only 47 officials across districts to inspect samples.

Staff shortage is reportedly leading to drugs “that are not of standard quality” reaching the market, leaving patients in peril. Also, very few samples of cosmetic drugs that are worth crores of rupees and homeopathic medicines are being tested for quality. A special squad formed under the State Drugs Controller had found in 2017 that the Kerala market was flooded with fake cosmetic products, said functionaries of the Kerala State Drugs Control Enforcement Officers Association.

Enforcement officials are also supposed to check and test medicines at government hospitals and railway hospitals, and stores run by veterinary hospitals and the Employees State Insurance Corporation, apart from firms that require a poison licence and a poison permit to handle methyl alcohol, cyanides, and chloral hydrates.

They pointed out that though the number of institutions requiring drug licences had gone up from 12,047 in 2008 to 24,636 in 2020, no new posts of drugs inspectors had been created since 2000. Though the number of drug testing laboratories too had gone up, officials in charge of collecting samples for testing remained the same, they claimed.

The association has now urged Finance Minister K.N. Balagopal to allot 61 additional posts of drugs inspectors. Three senior or regional drugs inspectors should be appointed to inspect the manufacturing of drugs and cosmetics and the functioning of blood banks and blood storage centres. They have also sought the creation of the post of Deputy Drugs Controller to take care of cosmetic products and medical devices and also a State-level Joint Drugs Controller for smooth functioning of the department.

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