Expressing grave concern at the storing and sale of expired medicines, the High Court yesterday directed the government to confiscate all expired medicines from pharmacies across the country and destroy those within a month.
The HC ordered the authorities to take legal action within the same period against those involved in storing, supplying and selling expired medicines.
It also directed the health secretary, Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA), Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) and Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) to form enquiry committees separately to identify the pharmacies, and those who store, supply and sell expired medicines.
The committees will also see what actions the authorities have taken against them.
The HC bench of Justice FRM Nazmul Ahasan and Justice KM Kamrul Kader gave the directives in response to a writ petition filed by Mahfuzur Rahman Milon, executive director of Justice Watch Foundation, a human rights organisation.
Mahfuzur submitted the petition to the court on Monday, citing from reports published in The Daily Star and the Prothom Alo on June 11.
Talking to The Daily Star, the writ petitioner said the health secretary, the DGDA, the DNCRP and the DGHS were asked to comply with the order and submit reports to the HC by July 16.
The court also issued a rule, asking the authorities to explain in four weeks why their inaction to confiscate expired medicines from pharmacies should not be declared illegal.
The respondents to the rule are secretaries to the ministries of health, home, law and industries, the director general of the DGHS, the director general and a deputy director of the DNCRP, the inspector general of police, and the president and the general secretary of Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries.
Besides, the editors of The Daily Star and the Prothom Alo have been asked to submit separate reports to the HC by July 16, confirming the authenticity of the news reports published in their dailies on June 11.
According to the reports, the DNCRP found expired medicines in 93 percent of the pharmacies in the capital where it conducted drives over six months.
Earlier on June 15, Nazmul Hasan Papon, president of Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries, told the media that availability of expired medicines in the country’s pharmacies is “not unusual” and that there is “no reason to be worried”.
He could not confirm whether all the companies follow the standard procedures to destroy expired medicines safely.
The HC said both adulterated and expired medicines are being stored and sold though there are multiple government agencies to prevent it.
It also mentioned that in some countries, only the health ministry looks into this issue.
Petitioner’s counsel ABM Altaf Hossain told the court that the DNCRP recently said expired medicines are being sold, which is alarming for the nation.
He said it needs to be found out based on what the DNCRP had made such a statement.
At one stage, Altaf mentioned the recent incident involving an official of the national consumer rights body, who ran a drive at an outlet of local fashion brand Aarong.
He said the official was transferred soon after the drive.
In response, the court said, “Why will the prime minister need to give directives on everything? Are the secretaries now in their pockets? The transfer order was issued on a holiday.
“For what they are there if the prime minister has to intervene in every issue…
“If such things continue to happen, honest officials will be demoralised... It was necessary to take steps against those who issued the transfer order on a holiday.”
The court mentioned that the expiry dates of medicines are printed on packets in such small fonts that it is very difficult to read those.
“It seems microscopes are needed to see those [expiry dates]. Those should be clearly visible,” it added.
Deputy Attorney General Abdulah-Al-Mahmud Bashar said the authorities are not sitting idle, and that they are taking steps to stop storing and sale of expired drugs.