KATHMANDU, March 12: The Department of Drug Administration (DDA), the drug regulating body of the country, is in a sorry state. However, the government has done nothing to restructure and empower it according to the spirit of federalism.
The DDA has its central office and lab in Kathmandu and three branch offices across the country. It has a total of 49 positions of staffers including 24 inspectors at the central office, 40 positions including 24 technicians at the lab, nine positions each at the Biratnagar and Birgunj branch offices and eight positions at the Nepalgunj branch office.
But the central office as well as the lab have only 70 percent of the positions filled even at the onset of federalism, said DDA officials. “While there are only six staffers at the Biratnagar office, there are five staffers each at the Birgunj and Nepalgunj offices at present,” they added.
As a result of manpower shortage, the DDA has been unable to supervise the drugs and their sales and distribution in the market. Even, substandard and restricted medicines are also being sold in the market due to weak monitoring and inspection.
“It has been very difficult for us to inspect and monitor imported and domestic products of drugs due to the lack of required manpower,” said Santosh KC, spokesperson and senior drug administrator at the DDA. “The country has already adopted the new federal system but the DDA is still being run according to the old system,” he said.
The DDA has already proposed its federal structure and the required manpower to the government. However, there has been no response from the government for a long time.
“We submitted the proposal to the government, demanding 25-30 staffers in each of the seven provinces with establishment of new offices months ago,” said KC. “We have proposed having 78 staffers at DDA central office and 94 staffers at the lab,” he said.
The existing laboratory of the DDA is inefficient for examining and carrying out all sorts of drug tests, effects and their qualities. “We immediately need to upgrade our lab,” KC added. “However, the government seems to be indifferent to empowering and restructuring the drug market regulator.”
According to the DDA, drugs worth around Rs 17 billion (46 percent) constitute the annual domestic production while drugs worth about Rs 20 billion (54 percent) are imported annually. Of the 54 percent imported medicines, 52 percent is purchased from India and two percent from other countries.