Shortage of staff: Only 23 drug inspectors to check 25k chemist shops

New Delhi: Delhi is facing an acute shortage of drug inspectors (DI) to sniff out fake or ineffective pharmaceutical products. The Drug Controller Department, which prescribes the standards of drugs, cosmetics, diagnostics, devices and regulatory measures estimates that the state requires nearly 125 drug inspectors for more than 25,000 chemist shops, which is just 18 per cent of what the department requires. However, only 23 drug inspectors are available for more than 2-crore citizens of Delhi.
An official of the department said that Delhi has nearly 25,000 medical stores including blood banks, which are being inspected by just 23 drug inspectors. This means there is no guarantee that the medicine that people buy from a pharmacy is safe. The drugs regulatory body does not have enough manpower to conduct regular inspections of the city's mushrooming chemist shops and wholesale units, the official said.
A CAG report released in 2016-17 also notify that as in March 2017, against sanctioned strength of 31 Drug inspectors (DI), Drug Control Department (DCD) had 23 DIs and Indian systems of Medicine (ISM) had three against five sanctioned post of DIs. Shortage of DI limited their ability to discharge its mandated functions relating to issuing licenses and inspections of drug manufacturing and selling units.
The DCD stated that the department was taking steps to recruit sanctioned strength of DIs and requisition for appointment of six more DIs has been sent to UPSC in
July 2017.
However, the official point out that over the past 40 years, the number of pharmacies has soared from 5,000 to 25, 000, which is almost five times. The sanctioned post of DIs has remained the same for past few years. Drug inspectors keep a close watch on all medical establishments including hospitals, blood banks, cosmetic units, manufacturing and surgical units, Delhi government dispensaries, Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) and ESI units.
As per the observation and guideline of Dr Mashelkar Committee report and Task force committee's observation, there should be one drug inspector for over 200 chemist shops.
The official further added that drug controlling department is under acute pressure as department is facing a shortage of inspectors, who can keep a watch on medicines being supplied.
"Even though we are fewer in number, the department is conducting special inspection programme twice a week every month. Each drug inspector has to collect at least three legal samples, 10 survey samples and two specimen samples. The main targets are the government and private hospitals and in a month there are about seven-eight raids," the official said.
These raids are made under the Drugs and Cosmetics Rule 1945. In relation to recent raids made by the drug regulatory department, the official said: "We have acted against 18 chemists who were caught red-handed selling habit forming drugs such as Avil, Diazepam, Proxyvon, Tramadol injections and Corex syrup that leads to substance abuse. We have canceled the license of shops in Mahendra Park in North Delhi, Vijay Vihar, North West Delhi and Seelampur in North East Delhi."
"We also keep a watch over the red zone, Bhagirath Place, which is known for the sub-standard medicine. Meanwhile, no fresh licence were issued to the apprehended drug sellers. Shockingly, We found that even after canceling the licence for a particular shop in the past, the chemists operated with a different name and continued to sell the drugs," he added.

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