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A(H1N1) drugs: use-by date approaching

Afshan Yasmeen
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Cartons of medicines with a July 2011 expiry date remain unused

Surplus:Boxes of A(H1N1) drugs, many of them soon to expire, piled up in the Directorate of Health and Family Welfare office in Bangalore.
Surplus:Boxes of A(H1N1) drugs, many of them soon to expire, piled up in the Directorate of Health and Family Welfare office in Bangalore.

During the outbreak of A (H1N1) in the State in 2009, the Health and Family Welfare Department struggled to ensure that drugs to combat the infection was used only on patients suffering from it so that there was no shortage of drugs. Today, the State Health Department is facing a problem of plenty.

Cartons of medicines, including oral suspension and capsules that are nearing expiry date, N95 masks, information, education and communication (IEC) material that were supposed to be distributed to State-run hospitals in districts and taluks are lying unused at the Health and Family Welfare Directorate's office near Anand Rao Circle in the city. Most of the medicines that were supplied by the Central Government will expire in July 2011.

Medicines

As many as 60 boxes of Starflu-75 (Oseltamivir capsules) manufactured by a city-based pharmaceutical company worth about Rs. 1.45 crore and 50 boxes of Fluvir (Oseltamivir Phosphate IP) powder for oral suspension of 75 ml manufactured by a Himachal Pradesh company worth nearly Rs. 13 lakh are stacked at the office.

A strip of 10 capsules of Starflu costs Rs. 460 and the Fluvir suspension costs Rs. 520, said a senior doctor who treated several A(H1N1) cases during the outbreak.

While the oral suspension is due to expire in July 2011, most of the capsules will expire in the coming months. However, as a saving grace, some capsules have a longer shelf life, till August 2014.

‘Waste'

“This is a national waste. On one hand poor patients in villages are forced to buy medicines from private medical stores as there has been a delay in procurement of some medicines by the department. On the other hand, loads of expensive medicine will go waste in a few months. The officials should have distributed the medicines to hospitals in rural areas when it was required,” a senior government doctor said.

Official's view

Admitting that some of the stocked medicines were due to expire in July 2011, State Joint Director (Communicable Diseases) T.S. Cheluvaraju toldThe Hinduthat the Union Government had disbursed huge stocks of medicines to States where the incidence of the flu was high. Karnataka was one beneficiary, apart from Maharashtra, he said.

Asserting that department officials had informed the Union Ministry of Health that the pending stock was nearing the expiry date, Dr. Cheluvaraju said: “We were asked to use the medicine if any cases were reported and dispose them after they expired. It is common for medicines to go waste whenever an epidemic outbreak subsides. It happened during the earlier outbreak of H5N1.”

Adequate stocks

He said adequate stocks had been disbursed to hospitals and the remaining lot was stocked at the directorate's office.

Health Secretary E.V. Ramana Reddy said he would look into the matter. “Whether it has been procured by the State Government or supplied by the Union Government, it is not correct to waste medicines,” he added.


  • 60 boxes of Starflu-75 worth

    Rs. 1.45 cr. unused

  • Official says it is a common occurrence


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