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The second wave of Coronavirus in India has had a greater impact on the country's healthcare system. Pixabay

India is known as the pharmacy of the world, but the country has also been battling the challenge of counterfeit drugs for long. While the list includes many life-saving drugs and currently fake Remdesivir and oxygen concentrators, a fake Covid-19 vaccine can dampen the efforts of governments and add to the already overwhelming healthcare system in India, says an expert.

The second wave of Coronavirus in India has had a greater impact on the country’s healthcare system. People have been running helter-skelter to get medicines, oxygen cylinders, concentrators, masks, PPE kits, and other essential life-saving things. The sudden surge in demand, unfortunately, boosted the trade of fake medicines and other essentials for Covid treatment.

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Early this month, four people were arrested in Pune for selling fake vials of Remdesivir for Rs 35,000 — a price far above the official Rs 2,000 price cap for the original medicine. Police said the men had sold at least seven vials filled with liquid paracetamol to a relative of a coronavirus patient. In Mysuru, a nurse at a private hospital was arrested for selling Remdesivir vials that had been refilled with antibiotics and saline solution. There are many such cases.

But what if the Covid vaccine gets adulterated?

“We have strong immunisation networks, however, we need to be extra vigilant in this case, as any adverse situation will have a long impact. The Covid vaccine can save a life, but a falsified vaccine will kill human beings as well erode public confidence in healthcare systems, healthcare professionals, and government agencies,” Nakul Pasricha, Chief Executive of Pharma Secure, a company that offers drug verification technology to pharmaceutical companies in India, told IANS.

Fighting counterfeiting is a long-term battle and we need to start somewhere. Pixabay

“Greater risk of harm to consumers will result in greater liability for healthcare providers. Circulation of falsified or fake vaccines will add to the already overwhelming crisis that the country is facing thus hampering the efforts of our governments, healthcare organisations, and our frontline warriors,” he added.

What causes these rampant counterfeits?

“Scarcity breeds falsification and counterfeiting, that is a fact. Adding to that, the absence of anti-tampering, anti-counterfeiting and traceability measures is making their task quite easy,” Pasricha noted, adding “counterfeiters are becoming smarter, and we need to stay one step ahead of them”. Similar to global companies, measures must be taken at brand level to ensure the product supply chain integrity, safety, and security, he said.

While physical solutions, such as tamper-evident packaging, eradicate product tampering, digital solutions such as QR codes or barcodes ensure supply chain integrity along with data intelligence. At the regulator level, most of the countries in the world have anti-counterfeiting regulations for pharma and healthcare, Pasricha said.

In Mysuru, a nurse at a private hospital was arrested for selling Remdesivir vials that had been refilled with antibiotics and saline solution. Pixabay

“Protecting Covid-19 vaccines and other essential products from falsification and diversion require cutting-edge authentication and traceability solutions, public-private collaboration, and national-level support,” he said. To secure the vaccine supply chain, Pasricha recommends three steps: (a) Implementation of serialization-and-traceability authentication on product packaging; (b) Training staff at healthcare centers to differentiate genuine vaccines from falsified ones; (c) Contingency plan to alert stakeholders in case falsified products are discovered in the supply chain.

“It is high time that we must implement these regulations within India the way we have been doing while exporting vaccines and drugs for almost a decade. We have to start now, and we have the ways and means to do it,” emphasised Pasricha, who is also the President, Authentication Solution Providers’ Association (ASPA), a non-profit organisation.

ALSO READ: 18 Top Global Scientists Probe If Covid-19 Virus Leaked From a Chinese Lab

Counterfeiting is also not just confined to India, but is a global problem, causing a tremendous impact on public and economic health. The World Health Organisation, in March, issued a warning about counterfeit and stolen Covid-19 vaccines being sold on the dark web. Doses of AstraZeneca, Sputnik, Sinopharm and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are being offered for prices between $500 and $750 on the dark web, according to media reports.

From about 20 dark web vendors in November 2020, the number grew to 600 in January and more than 1,200 by March this year, showed a report from the cybersecurity firm Check Point. Besides the Covid-19 jabs, vaccine passports and faked negative test papers are also being sold. While Covid-19 is a current pandemic, counterfeiting is an ongoing menace and every stakeholder’s role is important in combating it. (IANS/JC)


Photo by Picryl

Taliban is being supported by other countries, who are asking the United Nations to work towards its economy and people.

At least 10 regional powers have joined the new Taliban rulers in Afghanistan in their call to the United Nations to help the country bail itself from the feared economic collapse and a humanitarian catastrophe.

At a regional-level meeting in Moscow, Russia, China, Pakistan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan sided with the Taliban delegation and called on the UN to convene a United Nations donor conference at the earliest to help rebuild the ear-torn Afghanistan.

"It should take place with the understanding that the main burden should be borne by the forces whose military contingents have been present in Afghanistan over the past 20 years," said a joint statement of the Moscow conference.

Voices of concern and criticism were also raised against the United States, which opted not to attend the talks citing 'technical reasons'. The US was criticised for invading Afghanistan after September 11, 2001 and after 20 years, opted to an chaotic withdrawal, which created easy inroads for the Taliban to take control of the country.

It was also highlighted that international aid is the need of the hour for Afghanistan as any instability in the country would have a spillover effect on the regional countries and could threaten regional stability.

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has brought with it looming fears and memories of the '90s, when practices like public stoning, hardline setup and marginalisation of women were normal.

However, the Taliban, under the new government setup, have assured that rights of women will be guaranteed.

"Afghanistan will never allow its soil to be used as a base for anyone to threaten the security of another country," said Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.

"Isolating Afghanistan is in no one's interest. The meeting is very important for the stability of the entire region," said Deputy Prime Minister in the Taliban setup, Abdul Salam Hanafi.

The regional powers, including Russia, have maintained that the Taliban are a new reality, calling on them to work towards the formation of an inclusive government with representation from all ethnic groups and political figures.

While the regional powers recognised the need for immediate aid and help for Afghanistan, they have declined to give official recognition to the Taliban government.

"Kremlin recognises Taliban's efforts to try and stabilise the situation in Afghanistan. A new administration is in power now. We note their efforts to stabilise the military and political situation and set up work of the state apparatus," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The Moscow conference holds great importance, as it is the most significant international meeting since the Taliban takeover.

However, the Taliban have been given a clear direction to first meet and fulfil the promises they made when they assumed power, which includes rights to women and an ethnically inclusive government. (IANS/JB)

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