Complaints of people `getting high' on consuming the syrup

P.T. Jyothi Datta

Plugging the holes

To prevent

abuse the company has included holograms on its package.

Developing a

"one-way-valve" to prevent bottles getting re-filled.

Mumbai, April 7

Nicholas Piramal India Ltd is strengthening its efforts to check abuse of its Rs 110-crore cough syrup Phensedyl.

Having witnessed the low-point of sales slipping on Phensedyl due to raids on retailers last year, the drug maker has tightened its grip on the product and its supply-chain.

Faced with complaints of people getting high on "phensedyl", especially in the North-East, and allegations of diverting the product into neighbouring Bangladesh, it has been rough for the popular cough syrup brand. "We have learnt a lot from this episode," says Dr Swati Piramal, NPIL's Director-Strategic Alliances. "We have no sales in Bangladesh, nor a sales office," she responds, to allegations that Phensedyl was being diverted there. "Phensedyl has become a generic name (for cough syrup) like Xerox or Bisleri," she says, adding that cough syrups seized in Bangladesh were in sachets (which NPIL does not make) and litre-packs (which are not allowed by the Indian Government). Makers of spurious-drugs sell re-filled bottles and packets as "phensedyl", she says. Bangladesh has banned cough syrups containing codeine and that increases the problem, says Dr Piramal. "The product is legal in India and countries neighbouring Bangladesh. The borders are porous and poultry and buffaloes cross the border. The ban only creates an unnatural demand for the product allowing people to make money in between," she observes.

NPIL does not sell in the North-Eastern States of India either, with Tripura also having banned codeine-based cough syrups. To prevent further abuse of Phensedyl, NPIL has included holograms on its package, is developing a "one-way-valve" that prevents bottles from getting re-filled and is even working on making the product safe, like that given to children. "We are doing everything to ensure that Phensedyl is sold for the purpose it is prescribed," says Dr Piramal.

It has also roped in non-government organisation Kripa in the North-East to conduct a retrospective study over 10 years, on why people misuse drugs, she said. Kripa will also work with doctors, psychiatrists in the region and from Bangladesh to spread awareness on Phensedyl.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated April 8, 2006)
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