India’s healthcare sector has been growing rapidly and is estimated to be worth US$ 40 billion by 2012, according to Pricewaterhouse Coopers in its report, ‘Healthcare in India: Emerging market report 2007’. The number of patients visiting India for medicare has risen incredibly due to a combination of experienced physicians, lower cost, rising number of super specialty hospitals and world class care provided.

But what do we lack in our health care sector?

Though the prospect for healthcare looks great, I feel that we lack in general awareness. I think the pharmaceutical companies see Indian market as out dated. India has become a dumping ground for banned drugs and also a production unit for banned drugs.

We can see many banned drug in US and UK easily available and prescribed by physicians. Let me quote an example, PHENYLPROPANOLAMINE. I know majority of the people just know the brand name, so I will quote that. (Vicks Action 500 is the brand name of a combination medicine that contains: paracetamol 500 mg + phenylpropanolamine (PPA) 25 mg + caffeine 32 mg per tablet. Paracetamol is a pain-killer while PPA is a decongestant and D,Cold). On 6 November 2000 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a “Public Health Advisory” statement notifying that it was “taking steps to remove phenylpropanolamine from all drug products and has requested that all drug companies discontinue marketing products containing phenylpropanolamine”. The statement followed advice from the FDA’s Non-prescription Drugs Advisory Committee that there is an association between phenylpropanolamine and haemorrhagic stroke and that phenylpropanolamine was not considered safe. The FDA advised that the risk of haemorrhagic stroke was “very low” but there were significant concerns because of the seriousness of a stroke and the inability to predict who was at risk.

As I am living in India, I know majority of us take this medicine when we have cold and headache. What is worrying is that this drug can be bought off the counter without even a prescription. To add to that the drug is advertised on prime time television without even a mention about the side effects. The medical community is also guilty of prescribing these unsafe medicines. If I quote the medicines that are banned in other countries but are available in India, I will have a long list.

So, I request everyone to check the content of the drug you take and have a general idea about it. Also spread information about the dangerous side effects. Be bold to tell your physician that you had read about the side effects. You might provide the physician with an information that he wasn’t aware of’ thus saving the lives of many others. If not, you would have at least prompted the physician to be careful and not take advantage of a patient’s ignorance. Your questions might change the fate of many others!!