Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, Nov 06, 2003
Industry & Economy
Penalty for spurious drugs; but what about fake doctors?
P.T. Jyothi Datta
New Delhi , Nov. 5
AS if the prevalence of spurious drugs in the country is not worrisome enough, the horror story does not end there. Interlinked with the spurious drugs issue is the tale of "fake doctors or quacks", who are believed to outnumber registered practitioners by a ratio of 2:1.
With Dr R.A. Mashelkar due to submit his final report on the spurious drugs issue, concerns are emerging on whether the Government is missing out on plugging the "fake doctor" as a source for spurious drugs, even as it clamps down on other stakeholders.
"This is a burning issue and medical practitioners had sought to be regular members on the committees that deliberated the spurious drugs issue, as opposed to being invitees. Nevertheless, we had submitted to the Mashelkar committee that while the Government clamps down on registered chemists, doctors and manufacturers, what about the unregistered doctors and manufacturers? The cycle of spurious drug use is perpetuated by the fake doctor," points out Dr Sanjiv Malik, Secretary General, Indian Medical Association (IMA).
No authentic figures are available on the incidence of `quacks', but IMA says that the estimate of two `quacks' for every registered medical practitioner is a reality across the country.
Corroborating this is Dr Harish Grover, Vice-President, Delhi Medical Council. "There are about 22,000 registered medical practitioners in Delhi alone and according to estimates from the profession, quacks number about 40,000."
Death penalty is being proposed by the Union Health Ministry for spurious drug manufacturers. But when it comes to putting a curb on fake doctors, professional bodies are hamstrung. "We are a pressure building body. It is a law and order issue involving the Government and the police. We have a legal framework and it requires political will to take it further," the IMA official said.
Dr Grover adds, "Notices have been issued by the Delhi Metropolitan Magistrate for about 25 cases filed by the DMC and another estimated 90 have been show-caused. There is an Anti-quackery Bill pending with the Government for about five years. But existing legal provisions are empowered enough to deal with the situation. The judiciary needs to take up cases much faster and may be the police could be given the authority to act on confirmed `quacks', by removing their name-boards and disallowing them from practising."
Just as in the case of spurious drugs, where consumers are advised to buy from registered chemists and take receipts, in this case patients can protect themselves from the fake medical practitioners by going to registered doctors.
"It is mandatory for doctors to openly display their registration certificates given by the Central or State Government - whether the doctor belongs to the allopathic, ayurveda, homeopath or unani streams of medicine," point out medical practitioners.
Dr Grover advocates the three Ps - public (awareness), police (action) and prosecution as the simple pill to deter this deadly malaise.
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