Market aflush with ayurvedic medicines containing heavy metals in excessive amountsDoctors say an excessive amount of heavy metals—arsenic, lead, and mercury—can affect a patient’s kidney, liver, skin, and blood circulation directly and can also lead to death.
Ayurvedic medicines containing heavy metals—arsenic, lead, and mercury—in excessive amounts have been found to be sold throughout the country for months.
Mahayograjguggul of batch SB0371, Prabal Bhasma of batch SB0115, Ekangavir Ras of batch SB0196, Vtagajankush Ras of batch SB 0190, Mahabata Bignasan Ras of batch SB0106, Vrit Batachintamani Ras of batch SB 0244and Vrit Batachintamani Ras of batch SB 0244 (all ayurvedic medicines) manufactured by Dabur India Ltd and imported by Dabur Nepal Pvt Ltd were found containing excessive amounts of heavy metal.
However, the Department of Drug Administration, which is the national regulatory body of the drug market, has not recalled those medicines from the market, even though a laboratory test confirmed a heavy metal presence in those medicines. The presence of heavy metals in medicines has negative side effects on patients, doctors say.
Bed Prasad Sharma, a victim who used the said drugs produced by the company to treat his backache and suffered from arsenic poisoning, had asked the Department for action. Sharma, who had carried out the test of the said drugs in Zest Laboratories Pvt Ltd in Nepal and in Christian Medical College Vellore of India, revealed the result of the tests which confirmed the presence of excessive amounts of heavy metals in the drugs. Sharma had then presented the lab reports to the Department.
The Department advised him to file a case at the court. Sharma lodged a case against the manufacturing company at the Central Bureau of Investigation of Nepal Police, which collected samples from the market and carried out a test at the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology. The Academy's report also showed excessive amounts of arsenic in the said drugs.
The Bureau forwarded the file of its investigation with the Academy's report to the Department of Commerce Supplies and Consumer Protection for necessary action.
Santosh KC, the spokesperson of the Department of Drug Administration, concedes that his office is aware of the presence of arsenic, lead, and mercury in certain batches of the company's product.
"We have been carrying out tests to confirm heavy metal presence in certain batches of drugs manufactured by the company," said KC. "We will take necessary action if the report is positive."
When asked why his office did not recall the drugs allegedly containing hazardous substances that pose grave risks to a patient's health, he said that his office would take a decision only after the administration's own lab releases its test report.
The Department of Ayurveda has also requested the Department of Drug Administration to carry out checks on the ayurvedic medicines which were allegedly found containing heavy metals.
"We have requested the Department of Drug Administration to conduct tests on those medicines," said Dr Basudev Upadhyay, director general at the Department of Ayurveda, told the Post. "If the tests confirm the presence of hazardous substances like lead, arsenic, and mercury in the drugs then we will issue a circular to Ayurvedic doctors to refrain them from recommending the said medicines.”
Ayurvedic drugs containing an excessive amount of heavy metals can affect a patient’s kidney, liver, skin, and blood circulation directly; it can also lead to the death of the patient, according to him.
Deepak Pokhrel, an official at the Department of Commerce Supplies and Consumer Protection, confirmed that the Central Bureau of Investigation of Nepal Police, which has also carried out lab tests of the said medicines, had forwarded the file to his office for necessary action.
"We will discuss with the Department of Drug Administration and take an appropriate decision," said Pokhrel.
Sharma, who suffers from liver failure and skin problems from arsenic poisoning, has filed a lawsuit at Sunsari District Court for compensation against the company.
"It has been seven months since I filed the case, but those medicines are still being sold and doctors are still prescribing them," Sharma told the Post, over the phone from Jhapa. "A lot of patients like me can suffer from the side effects of these medicines."