The Department of Drug Administration (DDA) has shut down 11 pharmacies in the Kathmandu valley for operating without a valid licence. The regulatory body said that it had started work to file cases against them at the Kathmandu District Court.
Among the medicine stores facing legal action are Sarvasulav Pharmacy, Pandey Medical, Shivashakti Upachar Clinic and Rojina Pharmacy of Manamaiju, Kathmandu. The DDA found out that they had been operating without being registered during inspection visits carried out on Friday and Sunday.
Similarly, Bishwamitra Pharmacy of Gongabu had not renewed its permit for the last three years. As per the Drugs Regulation, a pharmacy automatically becomes illegal if it does not renew its licence for 125 days.
The DDA has also ordered six other pharmacies to stop doing business until further instructions. They are Sajjan Pharma and Sajhedari Medical Centre of Kapan, Ansu Medical Hall of Mahankal, Pragyanshu Pharmacy, Kshamata Homeo-centre and Gita Pharmacy of Saraswati Nagar, Chabahil.
The DDA’s Chief Drug Administrator Balkrishna Khakurel said they checked out these drug stores after receiving complaints that many pharmacies had been conducting business before and after office hours so as to be missed by government inspectors.
“We have received many reports that stores without operating licences were doing business in the mornings and evenings and remaining closed during the daytime,” he said. The DDA will aggressively carry out similar monitoring in the future too, he added.
According to Khakurel, the department has summoned these drug stores to present a clarification within three days. He added that the DDA would file cases against them at the Kathmandu District Court if they failed to provide convincing answers.
The DDA believes that unlicensed medicine stores have been operating rampantly across the country. As per the department’s estimate, about half of the 28,000 pharmacies are illegal.
According to a DDA official, the proliferation of illegal pharmacies might be due to an over-production of community medical assistants or assistant health workers. “Although they are not allowed to sell medicinal products, many of them have opened drug stores as it is a lucrative business,” said the DDA source.
In addition, the DDA has discovered 13 drugs stores operating without a trained pharmacist. The department has also caught 11 medicine shops selling products nearing their expiry dates and nine not maintaining proper records of drugs used for narcotic and psychological treatment.
As per the Drugs Act, 1978, the penalty for running a pharmacy without a licence is a fine of Rs 25,000-Rs 300,000 and a jail term of up to three years
However, the DDA has not been initiating prompt legal proceedings against offending medicine stores despite the widespread flouting of rules citing a shortage of manpower.
As per the department, it has only five drug inspectors at its central office to monitor the 5,000 drug stores in Bagmati zone. There are 3,100 such stores in the valley alone. Likewise, there are only two drug inspectors each at its regional offices in Nepalgunj, Birgunj and Biratnagar.