While the city is in the grip of various types of viral infections amid an acute shortage of common painkiller, paracetamol, a huge stock of 48 million tablets of the drug, which Sindh health authorities seized three weeks ago during a raid, turned out to be a “normal course of business” procedure adopted by a multinational pharmaceutical company.

The authorities seized the tablets during the raid on a warehouse of the company in Karachi.

However, the stocks were released on Friday after an ‘investigation’ into the matter led to the conclusion that the bulk quantity of the medicine was intended to be released and distributed in the country.

It took the authorities 21 days to complete their probe and draw a conclusion in favour of the multinational pharmaceutical, which had already rejected the allegations and called the presence of huge quantities of tablets at the warehouse a legitimate stock “intended to be released and distributed in the country in the normal course of business”.

“The undersigned carried out an investigation under Drug Act 1976 and rule framed thereunder vice above cited letters dated September 16, 2022, and September 27, 2022, respectively,” said an operative part of the letter from the provincial inspector of drugs office to the distributor, the multinational pharmaceutical.

“Later on, you vide letter dated October 6, 2022, have produced bills/invoice, dispatch/distribution plan and keeping in the larger interest of the public, the order of Not to dispose on Prescribed form-2A for Tab Panadol 500mg detained on September 15, 2022, is hereby revoked under permissible clause (a) Sub Section (5) of Section 19 of Drugs Act with directions to keep all relevant documents of available stocks at the place in future.”

On Sept 15, a team of the chief drug inspector’s office of the Sindh health department seized more than 48 million tablets of Panadol, a common painkiller that recently disappeared from pharmacies across the country amid rising malaria and dengue cases.

The team inspected the warehouse located on Hawkesbay Road and found thousands of cartons carrying packs of Panadol tablets.

The officials claimed that the staff and managers of the facility said that it was fresh produce, but they didn’t have any documentary evidence to support their claims.

A huge quantity of the medicine that is not available in the market raised suspicions and it was decided after consent of the Sindh health minister and top officials to seize 48 million — or 48,378,600, to be precise — Panadol tablets packed in 4,032 cartons.

In a fresh claim, the officials said that Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho and the health secretary themselves supervised the whole process and “scrutiny of documents” during the probe.

“So we can say that there was a kind of carelessness or lethargic attitude on the part of the company [GSK Consumer Healthcare] but it was not ill-intentioned which created doubts,” said an official. “They didn’t have any documents at the time of inspection. That’s the reason you would find in the letter which was issued for the release of the stock, the company has directed to keep all relevant documents of available stocks in place in the future.”

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