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'Understaffed' FDA suspended only 55 licences

The Juhu Galli tragedy, where nine members of a family that ran a medical store were killed, has brought back the focus on unlicensed medical shops. This brings to light the role of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) department, which is supposed to keep a tab on such shops.

Mumbai has around 40,800 medical shops. But only 20 inspecting officers are looking after all of them. However, the sanctioned posts are for 65 officers. "We are facing acute shortage of staff. There are 55,000 police officers for all of Mumbai, but we only have 20 inspecting officers for the same," said a senior officer.

The officers have to look at all the aspects of inspection that fall under the FDA. This is not limited to just medical shops, but involves inspecting bio-medical waste, food products and hospitals as well.

In the last two months, 55 licences were suspended while 13 were cancelled for the shops' failure to follow the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. It has also filed FIRs against five online medicine-selling portals. "In 80% of the cases, we suspend or cancel licences as the shops sell scheduled medicines without prescription," said Masal Bala, joint commissioner (drugs), FDA.

How they get away with it
Officials say most defaulters escape by seeking a stay from the state government. "In 80% of the cases, our orders are ruled over," said an officer. Under Section 66 (2) of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, any medical shop within 3 months of the FDA's order, can approach the state government seeking a stay on it. In such cases, it is up to the
government to provide a decision on it.

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