Daily Times Editorial 18 November 2019

Fake doses, real losses


Food authorities routinely seize expired food items being used in restaurants, both known and not so famous, across Pakistan. That is a matter of playing with the lives of people. Now, an equally abhorrent practice of using or selling expired medicines is likely to be adopted at private hospitals, as per a report by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) in Islamabad. The perpetrators of the crime should be handed down a dose of their own medicine. It is unacceptable to make the people suffer in the name of curing them as the expired medicines complicate health matters. The expired medicines were busted during raids by drugs inspection staff. Druggists tampered with manufacturing and expiry dates of some medicines but the trick was caught through the batch numbers printed on the packaging of medicines. According to a report published in a daily, the Drap staff said this was an individual case and that the matter was investigated by different institutions, including the Federal Investigation Agency. The ensuing investigation revealed that in 2015, the hospital bought medicines with bogus receipts and forged dates of manufacturing and expiry.
Other than private hospitals, public hospitals are also not immune to the curse of ‘poor quality or substandard’ medicines being supplied to patients. The medicine sector needs a vibrant system of vigilance as complaints of overcharging the patients are also on the rise. Besides that many unregistered pharmas have mushroomed manufacturing alternative drugs because of their low cost and high profits and demand. Even though Drap has powers to regulate prices, but pharmas often flout the rules and mention prices of their own choice on medicines. Moreover, doctors, for the sake of petty benefits from pharmaceutical companies, prescribe drugs that are the combination of two or three medicines or creams. According to the Drap report, 534 nutrition/alternative medicines were analysed in provincial drug laboratories in the first five months of 2016. The results were alarming: the medicines had ingredients which could damage public health.
The share of unregulated or illegally manufactured food supplements, neutraceuticals, infant and baby formulae and herbal medicinal products into market is also large. Coming to the regulated pharmas and supply chains, over the past two years, an unprecedented hike in the prices of medicines has been seen, much under successive governments’ protection. Drugs manufacturers cite devaluation of currency and price hike of raw material in the international market. It is high time that the drug sector is regularly monitored and illegal units busted.


Faiz festival


The three-day 5th Faiz International Festival concluded on Sunday providing a much-needed occasion to the members of the public to discuss issues pertaining to a better today and a safer tomorrow. Packed halls, appreciative audience and learned panelists provided the perfect ambience for making Lahore the City of Literature, as has been declared by Unesco. Lahore was among 66 cities on the list for 2019 as City of Literature of Unesco’s Creative Cities. Occasions like Faiz Festival make the city a breeding ground for ideas and innovation. The festival hosted writers, artists, performers, journalists and intellectuals from across Pakistan and discussed a range of issues such as literature, economy, politics, international relations and film.
The festival, organised by the Faiz Foundation Trust in collaboration with the Lahore Arts Council, discussed the works of famous composer Khayyam where moderator Israr Chishti and panelists Amjad Pervaiz and Arshad Mehmood discussed the career of Khayyam, both in Lahore and Mumbai. A not much publicised aspect of his Lahore life, that Khayyam was a pupil of Baba Chishti, surprised the audience. He left Lahore for Mumbai before the 1947 Partition and when he died, the great composer was honoured with a 21-gun salute and condolence messages from the prime minister and president. Similarly the philanthropist Khayyam was discussed as he donated Rs12 crore to a trust for the welfare of struggling singers. In another session, the work of towering literary figures – Altaf Fatima, Khalida Hussain and Fehmida Riaz – was discussed. According to them, Fehmida Riaz, mostly known as a poet, also wrote prose. Her poetic themes kept swinging from women’s issues to politics, history and the historic characters and folk heritage of Sindh.
Shrinking spaces for civic and journalists’ voices also came under discussion. There was consensus among panelists that journalism was never free in Pakistan and that the lost path can only be found if only the golden principles of journalism were followed. A panelist’s comment met with loud applause that expression cannot be gagged in the age of social media, “Why do you [government] try to do so?” Also, the powerful voice of all times – Asma Jahangir – was paid tribute to at a session titled ‘Asma Ki Awaz: There was also ‘White in the Flag’ where panelists from minority communities listed down her struggle, challenges and achievements for their rights.

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