Preventing Counterfeit Drug Business

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By Zannatun Sharaban Tahura

Counterfeit products are silent killers. Medicines that do not have any active ingredients, instead it is made in a completely wrong way with dangerous, adulterated, substituted ingredients and sold under a false brand name is called counterfeit medicine.  As a result, those medicines do not have any kind of effective power, quality, and purity. Unscrupulous traders do this in the hope of getting extra money from consumers. Counterfeit drugs are not only a way to make money from consumers, they are killing millions. Because it contains harmful and toxic ingredients. 

Article 18 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh states that the State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties, and in particular shall adopt effective measures to prevent the consumption, except for medical purposes or such other purposes as may be prescribed by law, of alcoholic and other intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.

Section 41 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2009 states that a person who knowingly sells or offers to sell adulterated products or drugs is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or a fine not exceeding Taka two lakh  or both. Section 43 states that a person shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or a fine not exceeding one lakh Taka or both, if he produces or processes any product in a manner which is harmful to the life or health of man, which is prohibited under any law or regulation.  Section 27 of the Drugs Act 1940 states, Whoever himself or by any other person on his behalf manufactures for sale, sells, stocks or exhibits for sale or distributes any drug in contravention of any of the provisions of this chapter or any rule made thereunder shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three years or with fine, or with both.

Section 25 (c),1(e) of the Special Powers Act, 1974, provides for the death penalty or life imprisonment for adulteration of food, adulteration of drugs, or sale or display of adulterated food and drugs.  Though there are many laws to approach this counterfeit medicine issue, but proper implantation is required for reaching the goal that these laws are aspiring for. At present, mobile courts are operated under the Pure Food Ordinance and BSTI Ordinance to prevent counterfeit and adulterated products. A new law was enacted in 2018 by amending the BSTI Act-1985.  The new law also imposes a fine on Tk. 200,000 and a maximum sentence of two years.  The offence should be non-bailable.  Because the criminals get bail after committing the crime. The offender is usually released through a mobile court with certain amount of fine.  So counterfeit and adulterated drugs have become irresistible. The Drug Rules 1945, Drug Control Ordinance 1982, The Bengal Drug Rules, 1946, Drug Control Ordinance – 2006 are also applicable for this offence. The amount of punishment in all laws is very limited which does not have any effect on dishonest traders. Due to which it is not possible to bring this crime under control.  So the law needs to be amended.

 In 2019, the mobile court filed 2,145 cases against the production and sale of counterfeit and adulterated drugs.  At that time, a fine of Tk 12 crore 41 lakh 6 thousand were collected.  39 people were sentenced to different terms.  44 institutions were sealed.  Counterfeit medicines worth around Tk 32 crore were seized.  Besides, expired drugs worth around Tk 47 crore were destroyed as per the directions of the high court division.  In real, unscrupulous traders own a lot of money. They have influential people to help them. This little compensation does not affect them.  They think that if they are arrested, they will survive with a small amount of compensation and will start their dishonest activities again. So amendment to the law is required for setting exemplary punishment for offenders. Not purchasing and selling the counterfeit drug should be our motto. Public awareness should also be raised by government authorities to prevent this life-threatening crime.

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Zannatun Sharaban Tahura is a student of LLB program at Department of Law and Human Rights, University of Asia Pacific.