Atishoo! Watch the Pill You Pop
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29 January 2011
Fever, cough, cold and headaches are common this season, but that does not mean you will go on popping Vicks Action 500, D'Cold, Nice and Wincold on the advice of the neighbourdhood chemist. They could be dangerous.
Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has banned popular medicines containing Nimesulide (a suspension to treat pain and fever in children), Cisapride (for treating stomach acid) and Phenylpropanolamine (a component of popular cold and cough syrups) this week. The ban came in the wake of an investigation by the Union health ministry's Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), which tagged them as "unsafe".
"Most of these banned drugs which anyone can buy from a pharmacy without any valid prescription are in high demand. The orders are out in Delhi but with no medical awareness among customers and even sometimes doctors, most people remain ignorant," said Mitam Barooah, emergency medicine consultant, NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham.
Barooah added that the state is in desperate need of a Medicine Regulatory Board to monitor these updates. Most of the city pharmacists said they were not aware of any ban. "Drugs like Nice, D'Cold and Vicks Action 500 are easily available and sold in volume. We have not received any instruction from doctors. We are totally ignorant about it, but it's a serious matter," said an official from Ranbaxy in Guwahati.
Most of the drug manufacturers have stopped making Nimesulide medicines after they were banned in Britain, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Nimesulide showed having side effects, including liver damage. Whereas, PPA used in cold and cough remedies was banned in North America and Western Europe some years ago.
But not many are aware of the ban and happily popping them without consulting a registered practitioner. "We may be highly educated but most of us are medically illiterate. If some drugs are banned, we won't know about it till a doctor points it out," said R Kashyap, a local. The banned drugs constitute Rs 20 crore of India's Rs 50,000–crore pharma market. Only Nimesulide tablets account for 99 per cent of the Rs 300–crore Nimesulide market. Two drugs, which were banned in India last year are Rosiglitazone, a high profile and widely prescribed diabetic drug, and Rimonabant, an anti–obesity drug.