Indian ban on Phensedyl welcomed in BD
13 March 2016, Nirapad News: India has banned production and marketing of around 350 fixed dose combination (FDC) drugs, including cough syrups like Phensedyl and Corex widely consumed by addicts in Bangladesh.
“It is a most welcome move. Young people in our country were consuming these cough syrups to get intoxicated and prolonged consumption had a disastrous effect on their health,” said Bangladesh Deputy High Commissioner in Kolkata Zokey Ahad.
He said this will boost India-Bangladesh ties significantly because there was much angst in Dhaka over India’s failure to stop production and smuggling of these cough syrups into Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has long been urging India to stop the smuggling of Phensedyl and some of its officials had even suggested that production of these drugs be stopped.
The cough syrup is already banned in Bangladesh as its Codeine content is unusually high and attracts addicts, who pay three times the rate in India to buy these cough syrup bottles.
“This Indian decision will hit a huge cartel of drug smugglers operating on the India-Bangladesh border,” said Anirban Roy, who as a former journalist had done a huge expose of these cartels.
His serial expose was abruptly stopped when the makers of Phensedyl, Nicholas Piramal, lobbied hard with media managements.
These cartels are active in West Bengal, Assam and Tripura, where one raid led to the seizure of more than one million bottles of Phensedyl cough syrup five years ago.
According to the ‘Times of India’, the high demand in Bangladesh was not only exploited by smugglers but also by some in the pharmaceutical industry.
In 2015, state-run laboratories in West Bengal found twice the amount of Codeine (21.37 mg/5 ml dosage instead of 10 mg/5 ml) in a batch of Phensedyl bottles and a major row erupted between Nicholas Piramal and the Bengal government.
The company denied any involvement.
Indian customs said they suspected that some consignment of Phensedyl were made ‘extra potent’ so that factories in Bangladesh could dilute then and make 10 bottles out of 5 or 7.
The development comes at a crucial juncture when India’s Border Security Force (BSF) and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) are participating in the first of its kind joint operation and training exercise in the Sundarbans as a confidence building measure.
A company each of BSF and BGB will take part in this exercise with water crafts and floating outposts.
The BGB commanders are said to be happy with the Phensedyl ban because stopping illegal inflow of the cough syrup was a priority.
“Now they can focus on other important contraband,” said a BSF official. “But we cannot rule out the production of such substances by other smaller drug companies, perhaps illegally,” he said.
Prohibition in Bangladesh and in some states of India’s Northeast, fuelled by objections of Islamist radicals and the Christian Church, has created a huge demand for these cough syrups.
“This prohibition is counter-productive. Now that Phensedyl production is stopped, Indian made foreign liquor will be smuggled into Bangladesh. Why can’t this be regularised, because if that happens, the government will earn revenue,” said trader Rishikesh Dey.
The Phensedyl smuggling volume ran into nearly 1.5 billion Indian rupees, according to most conservative estimates.