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Posted at: Jul 16, 2017, 1:26 AM; last updated: Jul 16, 2017, 1:26 AM (IST)CONSUMERS BEWARE!

Make chemist pay for selling expired drugs

Make chemist pay for selling expired drugs
The threat is real: Do check the expiry date of medicines when buying

Pushpa Girimaji

Last week I bought some antibiotics from a neighbourhood chemist. When even after five days of taking the medicine, I did not feel any relief, my doctor asked to me to show him the medicine. He checked and found that the chemist had given expired medicine. I then went and bought the medicine from another chemist and, after two days, I am feeling much better. What action can I take against the first chemist for selling expired drugs?

This is a serious matter. Please complain to the state drug control department. Write a formal letter to them, giving details of the incident. You can send pictures of the medicine, showing the date of expiry. Also send a copy of the cash receipt. This will help them in taking action against the chemist. They should also check whether he is selling such expired drugs regularly (or has stocks of such drugs), which will make it an even more serious offence.

In fact, the cash receipt of the chemist has to specify the name of the drug, its batch number, date of manufacture and expiry. That way, even if a chemist takes out an outdated drug by mistake, while writing the bill, he gets to know of it. In your case, even if I assume that he has given you a receipt, he has either not written the details or has deliberately mentioned the batch number from a fresh stock. That only compounds his offence. So do check your receipt too.

Having said that, I would advise you to always check the date of manufacture and expiry at the time of purchase, even though it is the responsibility of the chemist to remove expired drugs from his shelves. Also, always collect the cash receipt and make sure that it has all the required details.

I would also advise you to always confirm that the druggist has given the medicine prescribed by the doctor. There have been a number of cases when chemists have given wrong medication. In Mumbai, a consumer almost died of hypoglycaemia because the pharmacist misread the prescription given for treating flatulence and sold him, instead, an anti-diabetic drug that had an almost similar sounding name. Similarly, in another case, a chemist misread the doctor’s abbreviation for ‘continue all medications’ (Ct all) written after the list of medicines as Cital, a urinary alkalizer. So, you need to be careful. You must also ensure that the prescription of your doctor is clear and legible. In fact, the amendment to the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and ethics) Regulations, 2002, notified last year, says that “every physician should prescribe drugs with generic names legibly and preferably in capital letters and he/she shall ensure that there is a rational prescription and use of drugs.” This is meant to protect consumers from such mistakes caused by illegible handwriting and also uphold their right to choice.

Have there been complaints like mine before the consumer courts?

I remember an interesting case decided by the Central Mumbai District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum in 2014, where the court awarded a compensation of Rs 25,000 and costs of Rs 5,000 to one such victim. In this case, the consumer found that he had been given an outdated medicine when he started feeling uneasy after consuming it and vomited twice. He also realised that the batch number mentioned in the receipt was different from that of the medicine sold to him! So, he not only complained to the Food and Drug Administration, Maharashtra, but also sought compensation from the consumer court.

The owner of the store argued that he should not be punished for what the pharmacist employed by him had done and that he had already been punished by the FDA by suspending his licence for six months. Dismissing the contention and awarding compensation to the consumer, the consumer court pointed out that the remedy provided under the Consumer Protection Act was in addition to the remedy available under other laws. Besides, the store owner was responsible for the actions of his employee and has to pay for the physical and mental suffering undergone by the consumer on account of the expired drug.

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