Forty-six-year-old S. Narasappa, a resident of Manchenahalli of Chickballapur district, has been consuming Dinac, an anti-inflammatory and analgesic tablet, along with Dexamethasone, a corticosteroid for the last six years. These medications, prescribed to him by an unauthorised medical practitioner in the village, were to relieve him of his acute knee joint pain. And he was quite okay with the medicines till six months ago.
“Now, even if I take these medicines twice a day it is of no use. While my knee pain has worsened, I am now suffering from continuous discomfort in the abdomen. I have gastritis and am unable to eat anything,” sighed Mr. Narasappa, who is now seeing a proper MBBS doctor in the village.
The latter (one of the only two qualified private doctors in the village), who didn’t want his name mentioned, said Mr. Narasappa’s reactions were the result of prolonged intake of the analgesic and steroid.
“His is not a lone case. We have been getting several patients who would have gone to these unauthorised medical practitioners and developed reactions in the long run,” said K.N. Chandra Mohan, Administrative Medical Officer of Manchenahalli Primary Health Centre (PHC). Pointing out that there are several “unauthorised medical practitioners” in the village, Dr. Mohan said that although the district health authorities raided, booked, closed them down several times, the quacks’ “business was thriving”.
Chickballapur District Health Officer (DHO) B. Bhaktavatsalam told The Hindu that the proximity of the village (sandwiched between Gowribidanur and Chickballapur) to Hindupur and surrounding areas in Andhra Pradesh was a blessing for the quacks. “These people, who claim to have certificates from institutes of alternative therapies in West Bengal and Bihar, take shelter in Hindupur and other villages in Andhra Pradesh after the raids and get back to set shop in a neighbouring village after some days. We have raided nine clinics in Chickballapur and five in Manchenahalli since May. Cases have been booked and their business shut. But we have learnt that they are now operating from their houses with the support of local residents,” he said.
Elaborating on the medication methods adopted by these “quick fix healers”, both Dr. Bhaktavatsalam and Dr. Mohan said that painkiller injections are usually laced with steroids. “They charge only Rs. 10 or Rs. 15 and play with people’s lives by prescribing multiple antibiotics and immunosuppressants for immediate relief. They run their business with full support of the local people, chemists and medical representatives,” they added.
G.V. Manjunath, president of Chickballapur chapter of Indian Medical Association (IMA) and chairperson of Karnataka IMA’s anti-quackery cell, said that the district had both unqualified practitioners and those who were qualified in one system of medicine (say ayurveda or homoeopathy) but practising allopathy.
He cited the example of a person who had studied only up to Class 7 but was not only posing as a qualified doctor in Chickballapur but also was conducting surgeries for haemorrhoids.
Dr. Mohan said: “A laboratory technician from Hindupur and an SSLC-failed person who had worked as an attender under a qualified doctor have set up their clinics here.
“Another sweeper, who earlier worked in a nursing home near Devanahalli for 10 years, has a flourishing clinic in Poshetahalli.”
These quacks did not bother about drug reactions and liberally prescribed steroids and antibiotics. Such prescriptions can result in acute renal failure in the long run, the doctors said.