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Posted at: Jan 16, 2019, 6:45 AM; last updated: Jan 16, 2019, 3:03 PM (IST)

De-addiction centre’s scary numbers

4,000 tablets an hour sales of habit-forming drug in Tarn Taran alone
De-addiction centre’s scary numbers
Thinkstock photo for representation only.

Vishav Bharti
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, January 15

A small de-addiction centre in Tarn Taran registered an hourly sale of 4,000 tablets of de-addiction drug buprenorphine, according to a report prepared by Punjab’s Food and Drug Administration — a pointer to the level of dependency on the habit-forming combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, and the unchecked sale.

The Sankalap Drug Dependence Treatment Centre in Tarn Taran dispensed over 50 lakh tablets in just six months between January and June last year. As per rules, one patient cannot be given a dose for more than a week in a single visit. So, to dispense 50 lakh tablets, the centre was required to have examined 1,300 patients a day. Doctors, however, point out it is difficult to examine more than 100 patients daily for a doctor. Hence, the figures clearly indicate that the centre was just acting as a bulk sale point for the medicine.

The Tarn Taran centre was not the only one dispensing the medicine at such a large scale. There are at least 10 centres in the state which dispensed more than 15 lakh tablets in just a year. The pace of sale mentioned in the report indicates a scam in the name of de-addiction. 

Fears have already been expressed on how the misuse of the de-addiction drug is in itself leading to a new addiction in the state.

Under the Drug Policy 2017, the state government regulates the sale of six habit-forming drugs: Tramadol, Tapentadol, Codeine, Diphenoxylate, Alprazolam, Buprenorphine. The dose cannot be dispensed for more than seven days in a single visit. The state government has made it a standard practice, and even the PGI doctors follow the practice.

To evade the guideline, it is common practice with the centres to keep blank spaces in their indoor-patient registers.

Last year, in Mohali district alone, one centre which dispensed over 15 lakh tablets in a year was closed and two others are being investigated.

However, what has raised eyebrows is that de-addiction centres which dispensed much more medicines than in Mohali were not subjected to a similar investigation.

At present, there are 74 private de-addiction centres in the state, of which around 40 are controlled by two big businessmen with political connections.

Since de-addiction has emerged as a big business, it is alleged that the established players are blocking the new entrants. A query with the Health Department revealed that at least 20 applications of psychiatrists keen to open centres have been pending for several months.

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