Sunday, May 4, 2008

Banned globally, available locally!

It’s a known fact that multinational companies (pharmaceutical, FMCG and food and beverages) make use of the somewhat lax drug safety laws in India to manufacture and sell harmful products that are banned elsewhere. Be it a tablet you are taking for a simple headache, the cola you are drinking or the readymade soup you are preparing – all of these have products or traces of chemicals that are banned for use in most of the developed countries. Alarmed? There is more in stock, if you read on. Sample these simple examples:

1. The easy-to-cook soup powder that most multinational companies sell in India contains an additive called Mono Sodium Glutamate (MSG). We also consume them and thank the companies for coming up with such a solution to our soup-making woes! Little do we know the harm we are doing to our internal organs. In most developed countries MSG is a big no-no and these same companies sell the same soup without any trace of MSG. Chinese restaurants in the US flaunt signs on their doors which claim – NO MSG. You may be wondering what will happen if one has MSG (better known as Ajinomoto). Check out this site which lists the harmful effects of having MSG and talks about the
Body Systems Affected by MSG. Amongst the most significant ones are damage to the nervous system, high blood pressure, affect brain cells, digestive system and even your hearing. In short, almost everything that lets us live life normally. But when it comes to India everything is acceptable.

2. A tablet for headache has found a place in all our bags. We pop a pill for headache more often than we take a vitamin tablet these days! One of the most popular tablets till recently was Novalgin (which contained liberal doses of analgin). This has been banned across the world because it is known to cause bone marrow depression. This fact is so well known that the brand is banned even in countries like Nepal, Vietnam and Nigeria! But, unfortunately, it is still available in India and over the counter.

3. For fever or some irritating pain, how often have we taken a Nimulid. Little did we think that the drug falls in the Nimesulide category and is knows to result in liver failure. So dangerous is the drug, that it is banned in 160 countries including even Bangladesh. But we still continue to use it – no one knows why, especially when other painkillers are available without these side effects.

4. A common cold results in most of us taking Vicks Action 500 or D’Cold. Reports suggest that both of these drugs contain Phenylpropanolamine, which is known to cause stroke! In the US, this drug cannot be procured without a prescription because of its side effects. However, in India it continues to be available over the counter.

The list is endless – if I were to give you the entire list, this would be a never-ending post! Worst of all is the fact that most of these medicines treat innocuous conditions like a headache or a cold but lead to fatal conditions like a stroke or liver failure. Check this
Express Pharma article to get a full list of drugs that are banned globally but available and permitted in India. The article also lists the harmful side effects of taking them.

Unfortunately, the fact that nothing much is being done about this growing menace is evident in this
Times Of India report, which says that even few months back these drugs were available in the open market and the Government is pleading helplessness to enforce the law.

What is adding to the trouble is the lack of knowledge of doctors in some cases. Either they get too swayed by medical representatives’ sales pitches, or have some vested interest in prescribing the medicines. Ultimately, I feel the onus is on us to protect our health and we need to be more aware of what’s good and what’s not. Thankfully the Internet is there to help us.

For an official list of drugs banned in India, visit the
Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation website. However, this link will provide you only the scientific names of the drugs; finding out the brand names may be difficult. But you can match these to drugs that you buy and check whether they come under this category or not.

So before you pop a pill the next time be sure to check that it does not fall in the banned drugs category.

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