More than one lakh medicine shops are operating without licences across the country while many of the registered ones have not renewed theirs yet.
Speaking at a programme at Hemayetpur in Savar on 6 January this year, Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) Director General Major General Mohammad Yousuf said there are over 2.5 lakh pharmacies in the country.
“We have issued licences to over one lakh of them while more than one lakh are unlicensed,” he said.
The Daily Sun could not reach him for the latest data on unlicensed medicine shops.
Zakir Hossain Rony, director of Bangladesh Chemist and Druggist Samity, told the Daily Sun the number of unlicensed pharmacies in the country exceeds one lakh.
He said there are many unauthorised medicine stores in rural areas and those are not listed by the drug authorities.
“It is difficult to know the actual number of unlicensed pharmacies as many stores are outside our monitoring,” Nurul Alam, deputy director and head of media cell at the DGDA, told the Daily Sun.
He said they do not have adequate manpower for monitoring. “We have offices in 54 districts. We need to double our manpower for proper monitoring.”
There are 1,70,521 lakh licensed pharmacies in the country. The drug directorate data shows 1,63,434 allopathic, 614 ayurvedic, 913 unani, 74 herbal, and 4,085 homeopathic and bio-chemic retail pharmacies were given licences till Monday (16 October). Besides, 1,401 wholesale pharmacies got licences till then.
Moreover, 234 model pharmacies and 51,439 model medicine shops were given licences till that time.
Alam claimed around 10% of the authorised retail pharmacies have not renewed their licences yet. Sources, on the other hand, said more than 20,000 drugstore owners have not renewed their expired licences.
The DGDA data shows it issued new licences to 6,658 drugstores and renewed that of 18,845 across the country between January and June this year. During this period, mobile and magistrate courts filed 1,327 cases against drugstores on various charges, including running operations illegally, and also issued fines of Tk1,36,43,900.
Alam said mobile and magistrate courts take legal action, including punishments and fines, against the owners of unlicensed drugstores regularly. He said they are also continuously conducting drives against unauthorised medicine stores.
“We could not take proper action in the past due to some loopholes in the previous drug acts. Now we can do that as the Drug and Cosmetics Act 2023 is in force.”
Sources said a large number of drugstores are running without licences in different districts. Besides, many have not renewed their licences for long.
Unlicensed drugstores do not follow official rules in their operations. Besides, they deal in banned and expired drugs as well as sell medicines, especially antibiotics, without prescriptions.
Most of these shops are located in villages. The owners usually keep the stores closed during mobile court drives to avoid legal action, sources said.
Experts said many people develop various health complications after taking unauthorised and expired medicines from unlicensed pharmacies.
Public health expert Be-Nazir Ahmed said unlicensed medicine shops are usually involved in selling counterfeit drugs and running operations without pharmacists.
Such drugstores are seriously affecting public health, he said.
“They misinform patients about doses while selling over-the-counter drugs. They also sell antibiotics randomly without prescriptions. The drug authorities should take action against them immediately,” he said.
Mentioning that unauthorised pharmacies are outside government monitoring, Be-Nazir, also the former director (disease control) at the Directorate General of Health Services, said the authorities should conduct surveys to know how many medicine shops are needed in which areas.
Source: The Daily SUN.