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After Malegaon drug bust, FDA intensifies probe

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Efforts on to shut alternative channel of alprazolam supply created in the multi-State racket

A recently busted multi-State racket of sedative drug alprazolam in Malegaon has prompted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to intensify its investigation across Maharashtra. The top priority for FDA officials is to break the alternative logistics channel created by the accused, which involved purchase and sale of the drug through mobile networking. Worryingly, officials believe that most of the illegal consumers are in the age group of 15 to 25 years.

Alprazolam falls under the benzodiazepine class of drugs. It is mainly prescribed for anxiety disorders, and diabetes and hypertension in some cases. It is widely abused for its calming effects.

“The illegal sale of such drugs is not dependent on shops any more. When we investigated this racket, we realised that the criminals have created their own network through which they purchase the drugs and sell directly to the youngsters,” Pravin Mundada, Assistant Commissioner (Drugs), Nashik, said.

In the Malegaon racket, the FDA has filed seven First Information Reports (FIRs) and arrested nine people so far. The ninth arrest in the case was made early in December. The arrested accused, Ahmed Abdul Ghani, would allegedly procure the drug from Surat and bring it to Malegaon. The drug was then sold to handloom workers and other youngsters in the area. Investigations revealed that the sedatives were coming from Himachal Pradesh to Gujarat and then to Malegaon.

The Maharashtra FDA has written to its counterparts in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat and to the Drug Controller General of India, alerting them of the racket which may have spread across other States as well.

“During our investigations, we inspected 33 chemist shops in Malegaon to find out if the illegal sale was being conducted through the shops. But it turned out that none of the shops stocked the drug made by the Himachal Pradesh-based firm,” Mr. Mundada said. This prompted the suspicion about the existence of an alternative channel.

Following the arrests, the FDA has called for meetings of over 500 chemists and 130 wholesalers, requesting them to chart out a plan to stock the sedative drug only in certain shops. The FDA has also written to doctors’ bodies, requesting them to prescribe substitutes of the drug. “We are taking several measures so that the illegal sales are completely stopped and all the possible avenues of abuse are shut,” Mr. Mundada said.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 2:46:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/after-malegaon-drug-bust-fda-intensifies-probe/article25875669.ece

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