Free drugs from public hospital stores available on market

February 5, 2009

Alpha Arzu
A section of employees of the drug stores of public hospitals are selling medicines in the market, thus depriving the poor patients of free medicines provided by the government for their treatment.
In January the Drug Administration in association with law enforcing agencies conducted a drive in various drug markets in the city and found several expensive medicines with ‘Not for sale’ and ‘Free supply’ written on them. Such drugs were mostly found in the big pharmacies in Mitford and Shahbagh area, sources in the Drug Administration told New Age.
Drug traders in Mitford alleged that the free drugs supplied by the government are stolen from the stores of various hospitals by their own employees and physicians. ‘And we sell these drugs at cheaper prices,’ he claimed.
On January 3, the Drug Administration seized such medicines worth about Tk 5 lakh. Mitford is the hub for selling and buying of the free medicines meant for poor patients, said hospital sources.
A physician of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital said that the hospital’s authorities are aware that the drugs, meant for treatment of patients who cannot afford them, are available in drug shops, not in the hospital’s pharmacy or drug store. But no initiative has been taken to punish those involved in the theft of those medicines, he said.
The director of the hospital, Abdus Shahid, said, ‘If we can identify the thieves, I will take action, but I have not come any such incident so far.’
DA officials also seized costly injectable contraceptives, which are supplied and stored only by the family planning stores in public hospitals, from a shop called the Medicine House on Mitford Road on January 18.
Officials of the health and family welfare ministry are aware that the costly drugs, laboratory chemicals, X-ray films, rolls of gauze, bandages and anti-septic drugs supplied by the government are available in the private pharmacies located in front of the hospitals and their environs, but they have taken no action so far.
A joint secretary of the ministry said that the employees involved with the thefts are so powerful that they are beyond the reach of the authorities.
‘We also know that patients at the hospitals receive only Paracetamol, oral saline, pain-killers, vitamins, antacids and balms used for itches, not the costly life-saving medicines,’ said the high official.
No initiatives to end the sufferings of the poor patients can be taken due to the so-called ‘powerful employees’ involved in the theft of drugs from the public hospitals, he pointed out.
Purchasing committees are formed in government hospitals to assess the annual need for drugs. ‘But there is nepotism in forming the committees and corruption in the way the purchase deals are struck,’ he added.
Officials of Sir Salimullah Medical College and Mitford Hospital said some doctors and nurses maintain an ‘understanding’ under which the doctors prescribe more medicines than necessary, and then the nurses sell the extra drugs. They also told New Age that free medicines are stolen mainly by ward-boys and nurses working in the operation theatres.
When asked, the store-keeper of Mitford Hospital, Mafizur Rahman, denied any involvement in the theft of drugs.
The Drug Administration’s director, Sarkar MA Matin, declined to comment on the issue.


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