The High Court has rightly expressed concerns about the lack of oversight that emboldens pharmacies to sell expired drugs to unsuspecting patients. The High Court’s observation was occasioned by a writ petition that cited reports, including one by The Daily Star, which revealed how widespread the practice of storing and selling expired medicines has become. And it’s disturbing: according to the reports, the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) found expired medicines in 93 percent of the pharmacies in Dhaka where it had conducted drives over the last six months. The disclosure is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in our health sector but what we find equally noteworthy is the fact that the High Court had to intervene in matters that should have been addressed—and resolved—through the regular channel. It reflects poorly on the capacity and even willingness of health officials to check irregularities as glaring and dangerous as the selling of date-expired drugs, which can have profound health risks.
We wonder why the health ministry failed to act of its own volition. The High Court’s intervention, while reassuring from a citizen’s perspective, is but a reflection of the failure of the administration to perform its duty. The health ministry should make it part of its oversight mechanism to regularly check the quality of medicines, and take legal action against the sellers and suppliers of expired or substandard medicines. This is an important public health issue and needs to be treated as such. As the High Court has directed, the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA), Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and the DNCRP should remain vigilant at all times against such practices. They must make it a priority to confiscate all expired drugs in the country and identify and bring to justice those benefitting from this heinous practice.