NHRC notice to Health Ministry, DGCI over drugs brand names issue; seeks response in 4 wks, ET HealthWorld

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New Delhi: The NHRC has sent notices to the Union Health Ministry and the Drugs Controller General of India over a media article alleging that there are drugs which are having identical or phonetically similar names but being prescribed for treating different ailments, officials said on Monday.

The National Human Rights Commission in a statement also said reportedly, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) would first have to “build a database” of all pharmaceutical brand names by collecting data from the 36 different Drug Controllers in each state and Union Territory, as there is “no such database in the country”.

“Also, no data on prescription errors is being maintained by the authorities,” the rights panel said.

The NHRC said it has taken suo motu cognisance of a newspaper article on a large number of drugs being sold in India with identical brand names for treating entirely different ailments.

Reportedly, the consequences of confusion between these medications at the pharmacy can be serious for patients as these drugs are being prescribed by doctors for treatment of different diseases, it added.

The Commission has observed that the content of the article, if true, amount to a “serious issue of human rights”.

Accordingly, it has issued notices to the secretary, Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and the DGCI, seeking a detailed report in four weeks. It should include steps taken or proposed to be taken to address the issue, it said.

The newspaper article, carried on January 25, has given examples of many such drugs having identical names, but being prescribed for treating different ailments. A drug with the name ‘Linamac 5’ is used to treat multiple myeloma, which is a type of cancer, and the other drug bearing the name ‘Linamac’ is used to treat diabetes.

Reportedly, another medicine being sold under the brand name ‘Medzole’ is used by four different companies to sell four different active ingredients, treating entirely different medical conditions, the statement said.

The first company uses ‘Medzol’ to sell a drug containing midazolam which is used as a sedative. The second company uses the name ‘Medzole-DSR’ to sell a combination of domperidone and pantoprazole which is used to treat stomach acidity.

A third company uses the name ‘Medzole 400’ for a formulation containing albendazole that is used in deworming treatment for children. A fourth company uses ‘Medzole 200’ for a formulation containing Itraconazole, which is a powerful antifungal drug used to treat diseases such as black fungus, it said.

The article further speaks about another problem i.e. use of similar trade names by companies which seem to be phonetically and visually similar. Citing an example, it stated that while one company uses the brand ‘Medpol’ to sell paracetamol, a second company uses the brand ‘Medrol’ to sell a corticosteroid and a third company uses ‘Metrozole’ to sell an antibiotic. These names sound phonetically similar to ‘Medzole’ and are also similar to each other with only a letter or two substituted, the statement said.

“Not only this, another serious problem has been identified relating to the use of identical or similar names to sell different active ingredients as contraceptives by the same company,” it added.

  • Published On Feb 13, 2024 at 12:23 PM IST

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