`Pharma products being smuggled outside India are misused`

New Delhi: Pharmaceutical preparations containing narcotic drugs continue to be diverted from Indian pharma firms and smuggled into South Asian countries and beyond, the latest report by the UN sponsored International Narcotics Control Board says.

"Pharmaceutical preparations containing psychotropic substances continue to be diverted from India`s pharmaceutical industry and smuggled into neighbouring countries (in particular Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal) and elsewhere.

"The preparations containing psychotropic substances most commonly diverted from India`s pharmaceutical industry are benzodiazepines and buprenorphine. In Bangladesh, ampules of buprenorphine are smuggled in from India," the report for 2012, released at an event here today, says.

The INCB is an independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body for the implementation of the UN drug control conventions in coordination with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The report further states that pilferage of stimulant drugs which are used to prepare higher classes of narcotics are also finding their way from across Indian borders.

"Pharmaceutical preparations containing narcotic drugs continue to be diverted from India and India continues to be the main source for those substances and for preparations smuggled into other countries in South Asia, as well as an important source for smuggling to other regions in the world.

"The preparations containing narcotic drugs that are most commonly diverted in India are codeine-based cough syrups, dextropropoxyphene and pethidine. Large quantities of preparations containing narcotic drugs are known to be smuggled from India into Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal," the report says.

Joint Secretary in the Department of Revenue M L Meena, who was present during the unveiling of the document, said his ministry has taken note of the observations in the report and the government has taken a number of preventive and corrective measures to curb the narcotics menace.
Meena was joined by another Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment T R Meena and Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Director General Rajiv Mehta during the event.

The INCB, which also works in coordination with Indian enforcement and regulatory authorities, has recommended in the report that

India could "consider further strengthening its framework against the smuggling of codeine-based cough syrups".

Codeine-based cough syrups, the report says, are also smuggled from India to Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. "In 2011, India seized over 1.16 million bottles of pharmaceutical preparations containing Codeine," it said.

Codeine is also used in a cough syrup called Phensedyl which is notorious for its extensive smuggling across the Indo-Bangladesh border. The BSF has seized large consignments of syrup bottles along the border.

The report also says that a new variety of narcotic drugs are being prepared in India and its neighbour China.

"There is mounting evidence suggesting that many new psychoactive substances are being manufactured in China and India. The Board (INCB) urges the governments of China and India to investigate this matter and to take decisive action to prevent the manufacturing of new psychoactive substances on their territory," it says.

The INCB report has words of praise for India.

"...In January 2012, India`s Cabinet approved a new National Policy on
Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, including a detailed action plan focused on implementing the recommendations that the Board (INCB) made during its last mission to India in December 2010. The Board welcomes the Government of India`s responsiveness to the Board`s recommendations," it said.

The department of Border Management of India (under the Union Home Ministry) is undertaking a major programme of upgrading the country`s border security which should help to combat cross-border drug trafficking, the report says.

"In India, the authorities were successful in destroying almost 6,000 hectare of illicitly cultivated opium poppy in 2011. Around 528 kg of heroin (a decrease from 766 kg in 2010) and around 2.3 tons of opium were seized in India in 2011.

"Cannabis is the most abused drug in India, followed by opioids. Among those treated for drug problems in India in 2010, 22 per cent abused cannabis, 66 per cent abused opioids (33 per cent heroin, 14 per cent opium and 19 per cent prescription opioids) and 12 per cent other substances," it says.

Some 200,000 people abuse drugs by injection in India and commonly abused pharmaceuticals are codeine-based cough syrups, opioid painkillers and benzodiazepines, all of which are widely available through retail pharmacies, it said.