According to the findings of a year-long study conducted by the Delhi Pharmaceutical Trust (DPT), medicines in India lose around four per cent of their potency at chemists’ shops because they are not stored properly.
In the research, DPT, a body of pharmaceutical scientists and senior pharmacists, holds that degradation occurs in medicines much before they approach the expiry dates put on the packs due to uncontrolled temperature, exposure to light and moisture. Besides, the medicines also tend to lose a high percentage of potency when they are transported from the manufacturing site to retail points and stores.
The survey was undertaken to scientifically capture the variations observed in the temperature and humidity levels at various chemist outlets in New Delhi and study the real-time effect of the storage and stability of various pharmaceutical products. The drugs have shown various levels of degradation in potency, far higher than the permissible limit, at the outlets that did not maintain specified temperature, light or humidity levels, the report said.
Most of the retail outlets in cities and towns use one or two refrigerators to store drugs, but such arrangements may not be adequate for all medicines. Chemist outlets tend to avoid storage specifications because of high electricity costs, the report stated.
Currently, there are no codified norms for retailers in India on storage practices. A scientific committee on drug quality had recommended incorporation of these guidelines in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, but the government, in the face of stiff resistance from the traders who fear higher cost, has not implemented it.
A 2007 order from the central drug regulator to state food and drug authorities, asking them to enforce air conditioning in all drug outlets also faced strong protests from the wholesale and retail traders.