Thousands of pregnant women in Goa were administered substandard iron folic capsules from 2008 to 2010, the Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) has said.
The CAG report, tabled Thursday during the budget session of the state assembly, criticized the inefficient quality control mechanisms of the health department that had resulted in the procurement of 5.29 lakh substandard iron folic acid capsules of which nearly four lakh tablets were administered to pregnant women.
‘It was observed that 5.29 lakh substandard capsules were utilized by the health units and only 1.43 lakh were returned to the DHS (Directorate of Health Services), its deputy director confirmed that the tablets were utilised by the health centres,’ the report stated.
In its critique of the health department, the CAG report warned the implications of consuming substandard medicines could be hazardous.
Folic acid is globally acknowledged as an important nutrient during the first phase of pregnancy and before conception as women who are deficient in folic acid have a greater risk of having a baby with defects such as spina bifida, a disorder caused by the incomplete closing of the embryonic neural tube.
‘The distribution of substandard medicines reflected inadequate quality control mechanism and inefficient monitoring of procurement and distribution,’ it said.
According to the report, the medicines were procured from two companies Goa Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals Limited, a public sector undertaking run by the state government, and a Madhya Pradesh-based firm Modern Laboratories Limited.
The report also pointed out that 30 percent of samples sourced from medicines worth Rs.2.5 crore under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) during the last five years were substandard.
‘The FDA (Food and Drugs Authority), Goa collected samples on 10 occasions during 2009-10 and the results indicated that 30 percent of the samples were of substandard quality,’ the report stated, adding that a large quantity of the substandard medicine were already distributed to field health units because of the delay in the FDA test report submission.