Sindh?s drug testing lab now fully functional, claims health department

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With the posting of four pharmacists, the provision of new equipment and renovation, the provincial drug testing laboratory has been made functional for the first time after many years.During the last two months, over 225 suspected medicines collected from pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies have been analysed at the lab, officials said on Thursday.Thousands of samples had been lying at the provincial drug administration secretariat for years in Karachi as the laboratory, which had to analyse medicines to declare them genuine or spurious, was not functional, health department officials said, adding that nobody could sell spurious, adulterated or substandard drugs anymore in Sindh.“On the directives from Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho and the additional chief secretary for health, we started work on making the drug testing lab functional and, by the grace of Almighty, it is now functional and daily analysing drug samples submitted by drug inspectors from entire Sindh,” lab director Adnan Rizvi told The News.As per the drug act, drug inspectors are required to take samples of suspected medicines produced and sold in the province and to send them to the laboratory for chemical analysis and, if they are found not fit as per the law, cases are either sent to the drug court or criminal cases are lodged against the producers and sellers of the medicines.Similarly, under Sindh Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (SPPRA) rules, all batches of medicines purchased by hospitals and the health department for distribution among patients should be tested by the laboratory to verify their authenticity and efficacy, but due to the non-functional laboratory, thousands of batches of medicines were provided to patients without any formal verification and analysis.“Our drug testing lab was lying non-functional due to lack of trained and qualified staff and absence of equipment, chemicals and reagents. After assuming charge of the health department, the provincial health minister directed the health secretary to resolve our issues and make the lab functional,” Adnan Rizvi said, adding that due to her support and continuous monitoring, the lab was now fully functional.He, however, was not satisfied with the performance of certain drug inspectors, saying they were overburdening the lab with samples of reputed pharmaceutical companies, while drugs purchased by the government institutions were not being sent for testing.“Drug testing is a very serious issue and it should be dealt with extreme care and caution as any relaxation or dereliction to the duty can result in serious consequences for patients,” he said and added that substandard and spurious drugs produced at unregistered facilities in the suburbs would not be allowed to reach patients.To a query, he said that in addition to new samples being sent to them for analysis, they were also busy in clearing the previous stock of samples seized by the drug inspectors. He added that even common people could approach the provincial drug administration in case they found any drug spurious, substandard or adulterated.