FDA finds illegal meds at 90 of 92 inspected Mandalay pharmacies
THE Mandalay Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced this week that 90 of 92 inspected pharmacies carry unregistered or expired medications. The administration launched a crackdown in May, warning drugstore owners that they could face prison time if they failed to follow regulations and continued to stock black-market drugs, or those past their sell-by date.
In conducting checks, the FDA found 408 types of unregistered medication and 131 types of expired medication, said U Zin Zin Nwe, director of the Mandalay branch of the FDA, at a meeting with Mandalay pharmacists held on July 22 at the Mandalay City Development Committee’s hall.
Those violators received warnings this time, but action will be taken next time, U Zin Zin Nwe said at the meeting, which was attended by more than 400 people including representatives from retail and wholesale pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies, hospital heads, and officials from seven township Public Health Departments.
In addition to expired or unregistered medication, director general Daw Theingi Zin of the Nay Pyi Taw branch of the FDA warned about possessing or selling controlled or illegally imported drugs. Pharmacists found to be selling controlled medicines without a special licence can face punishment under the narcotics laws, and could be arrested.
Professors, doctors and owners of pharmacies who attended the meeting appealed to the administration to loosen strict regulations around importing medication, asking for a simplification of the registration process, and for a list of illegal and unofficial drugs.
Access to medication can be challenging. New drugs need approval from the FDA – a process that could take 18 months to two years and costs nearly US$800, The Myanmar Times reported in June. While the drug sits in limbo with the FDA, patients look for other ways of obtaining drugs they need. As a result, unregistered drugs that have been illegally imported – often from India, Bangladesh or Thailand – or produced locally proliferate the market, but cannot be regulated for safety.
In June, the FDA announced a price cap on registered drugs, hoping to bring prices in line with unregistered drugs, which were being chosen over the regulated options for their affordability.
Pharmacists have suggested that shutting down the black-market medicines industry will leave many patients without recourse, either because they cannot affording the registered version of the drug or because they are forced to wait for approval for a newer medication.
“People are uneducated about medicine,” Mandalay local Daw Myint Myint Maw told The Myanmar Times. “The people who can afford it take medication prescribed by a doctor but the people who cannot afford it go to the pharmacy and take non-prescribed medicines. It is best for the nation’s finances and health if the government produces the medications.”
– Translation by San Layy
Pharmacists have been warned they may face prison time for stocking fake or expired medication.