Five crore buprenorphine + naloxone tablets given to unauthorised persons

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CHANDIGARH: Punjab health department has detected illegal diversion of about 5 crore tablets of buprenorphine + naloxone to unauthorised persons outside the system by 23 private de-addiction centres, raising serious questions over the functioning of private centres in the state.

Diversions by these centres ranged from the least 8,26,643 tablets to the highest 48,23,401 tablets. All of them have been issued notice in addition to 67 other centres in which a minor gap was reported.

The other centres have asked to file a reply in 10 days.

Two centres are from Patiala, the home district of chief minister Amarinder Singh, with one of them having the highest gap of 48,23,401 tablets and other having a gap of 22,800,29 tablets.

The diversion of the detoxification medicine came to fore after the health department collated data of buprenorphine + naloxone procured, dispensed and its stock in-hand submitted by private centres to the food and drug administration (FDA), Punjab, between January 1 and November 19. Data is available on government’s central registry online portal.

The gap was found in data submitted by these centres to FDA and data on government central registry online. As per norms, every tablet of buprenorphine + naloxone dispensed to patients of substance abuse has to be entered in the central registry online portal and the inventory detail also has to be submitted to FDA.

A centre in Ludhiana recorded discrepancy of 42,22,370 tablets, followed by a Taran Tran-based centre having a gap of 40,03,125 tablets.

The department found a gap of 33,37,214 tablets at a centre in Sangrur district, and of 27,27,431 tablets at a centre in Moga.

The health department has asked the centres to show cause within 10 days, failing which action will be initiated against them under the NDPS Act, and the Punjab Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Counselling and Rehabilitation Centres Rules 2011, exparte.

The notices, sent by postal mail and on official WhatsApp group, read: “It has been observed that your centre has dispensed buprenorphine + naloxone in huge quality out of the system which is serious. Thus, unethical supply to unauthorised persons is a matter of grave concern to the government. Thus you\your centre are liable for action under NDPS Act and Rules.”

Based on a review of the de-addiction programme by principal secretary (health) Anurag Agarwal, the Punjab government had in recent past taken corrective steps for putting a check on undue profiteering and commercialisation of treatment by private centres.

For better making treatment accessible at affordable rates, the state government allows dispensing of take-home dose of detoxification medicines buprenorphine + naloxone from its OOAT clinics.

These centres were charging between Rs 300 and Rs 400 per strip, whereas the same medicine costs Rs 38 per strip to government and is provided free of cost.