Un-banned: The menace of Codeine-based cough syrups to continue unabated
| Adv Dhirendra Singh, Gurugram, Haryana - 13 Sep 2018

Un-banned: The menace of Codeine-based cough syrups to continue unabated

  • Dhirendra Singh, Advocate

Shocked, that is putting it mildly. Yes, this news today, shocked my conscience. You are only shocked, when you know too much about the ground reality else it is just another piece of news. The battle, which I was part of, was long but stands lost today. How was the public interest served in lifting the ban on these killer codeine-based cough syrups like Phensedyl and Corex etc? Yes, you read it right, much has been written about public interest in this country. The garbs are many.

For the uninitiated, Codeine is a prodrug derived from Opium and converts into Morphine by the action of an enzyme in the human Liver. That is where lies the catch, rendering a person prone to severe addiction, dependence and death as well, over a period of time. These facts were first reported in India by Tribune, Chandigarh way back in 1998.

Every city and town in India bears the scars of such human losses. For pharmaceutical companies the equation is - higher the number of addicts translates into higher revenue and profits.Do they not know this when the stockists and retailers of these very pharma companies have been arrested and booked by police in different states for pushing these cough syrups to addicts? Is this not corporate shamelessness and whatever happened to corporate conscience?

With this background, the Ministry of Health, Government of India on 10 March 2016 vide a Gazette Notification had banned these cough syrups under section 26 A of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act which empowers Government of India to ban a pharmaceutical product in Public Interest. What could be a greater public interest than saving future generations from the menace of addictions and lost lives.

In the past too, the government of India had banned two such drugs owing to large scale abuse and addictions namely Methaqualone (Brand names - Mandrax, Quaalude) &Dextropropoxyphene (Brand name - Proxyvon).

With regard to the present ban, big pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Abbott approached the Delhi High Court with writ petitions claiming that they have been selling the said codeine cough syrup brands like Corex and Phensedyl since 30 years and banning them out rightly violated the principles of Natural Justice. These companies have pursued the legal fight, with full knowledge about the scale of damage their cough syrups have caused in India and Bangladesh. After sustained hearings, the Delhi High Court lifted the ban against these cough syrups and other FDC.

The matter finally reached the Supreme Court of India, which in turn asked the DTAB (Drug Technical Advisory Board) to reexamine these 342 FDCs (Fixed Dose Combination drugs) including these cough syrups.

And the shock comes from the news today, because 327 FDC have been banned out of a total of a total of 342 FDC and shockingly 15 FDC comprising mainly Codeine-based cough syrups like Phensedyl, Corex etc have been left out though the entire story of irrational pharma combinations and drugs had started with these very cough syrups. Is that not ironical? Well, a country like Nigeria showed some spine, by totally banning these cough syrups in May 2018. Here it shall be business, as usual.

The consequence of this irresponsible and shameless pharmaceutical business has been devastating in India and neighboring countries. Too many of our young people have been rendered addicts, lives destroyed and deaths.

Real Question is, why we as a people remain mute spectators, to the menace unleashed in India by these cough syrups during the past 3 decades and more. Why do we in India, look to the west for examples and studies to decide things? India needs its own facts, which in this case point to large-scale addictions, lost lives and youth to these cough syrups.

(Writer of this article, Dhirendra Singh is an Advocate. Trusted Advisor, Strategist and Go to Person with 17 years of hands-on proven professional experience. He can be contacted at - dhirendrasinghp@gmail.com)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Indian Observer Post and Indian Observer Post does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.


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