Tue, 25 Feb 2003

Agency rapped over drugs importation

Zakki Hakim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government needs to reformulate procedures for the importation of medical materials, psychotropic drugs and narcotics to avoid excessive procurement that may lead to illegal drug production and trafficking.

"An excessive amount of addictive drugs and materials was legally imported last year under the approval of the Drugs and Food Control Agency (BPOM), which is actually not authorized to issue import approval documents (SPI) in the first place," Indonesian Health Consumer Empowerment Foundation Chair Marius Widjajarta said at a media conference on Monday.

"Indonesia, for example, last year imported 3,500 grams of morphine, although according to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) in Vienna, Indonesia required only 1,500 grams," Marius said.

He said the head of BPOM was quite aware that BPOM was not authorized to issue importation documents, as according to Law No. 5/1997 on psychotropic drugs and Law No. 22/1997 on narcotics, the Minister of Health has the sole authority to issue such documents.

"The Minister of Health, who has the authority to approve the import of drugs and materials, seems to be ignorant of the problems that may rise from lax procedures," he said.

Marius said that besides the procedure violations, the absence of adequate monitoring and evaluation had also contributed to the high rate of drug abuse involving narcotics and psychotropics.

"The 2001 audit report of BPOM shows that the majority of drug-related factories, pharmaceutical wholesalers and drugstores did not impose adequate monitoring systems, while the government only gave them warnings without taking any action against them," he said.

Poor monitoring, which widened the opportunity for illegal production and trafficking of drugs, indicated that the government was not serious about eradicating drug abuse, he said.

BPOM's Director for Narcotics, Psychotropic and other Addictive Substance Control Al Bachri Husin said, "BPOM deals with legally produced narcotics, which is not appealing to drug addicts. Meanwhile, drug abusers take illegal drugs that are out of BPOM's control."

"Every month BPOM reports to INCB all narcotics and psychotropic that Indonesia imports. We are quite open for anyone who wants to access our data," he said.

However, Bachri admitted that the head of BPOM signed import documents under the coordination of the Minister of Health.