Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

Black marketing during the pandemic


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Drugs and Cosmetics Act

Mains level : Paper 2- Blackmarketing during pandemic

The article highlights the issue of black-marketing of drugs during the pandemic and the factors responsible for it.

Problem of fake and sub-standard drugs

  • There have been reports of fake remdesivir amid the Covid pandemic.
  • It is difficult to quantify the morbidity and mortality effects of fake or sub-standard drugs, but they are substantial.
  • Legally, the Drugs and Cosmetics Act (DCA) has different categories of misbranded, adulterated and spurious drugs.
  • In 2003 Mashelkar Committee noted that although the Drugs and Cosmetics Act has been in force for the past 56 years, but the level of enforcement in many States has been far from satisfactory.
  • The committee also noted that the problems in the regulatory system in the country were primarily due to inadequate or weak drug control infrastructure at the State and Central level.

Steps taken to deal with the issue

  • Assistance has also been provided under the World Bank assisted Capacity Building Project to upgrade testing facilities and to establish new drug testing laboratories.
  • The Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940 has recently been amended in 2008 for providing more stringent penalties to those involved in the trade of spurious drugs.
  • There are specially designated courts and regulatory infrastructure has been strengthened.
  •  There is also a whistle-blower scheme.

Distinction between hoarding and black-marketing

  • A hoarder is anyone who stocks up items.
  • The crime isn’t hoarding per se but of selling a drug without a licence.
  • Data on prosecutions, and convictions when prosecuted, of crimes under Drugs and Cosmetics Act, are not encouraging.
  • Incidentally, courts have ruled police officers can’t register FIRs, arrest and prosecute (for cognisable crimes) under this law.
  • That’s the job of drugs inspectors.
  • The notion of a black market is different, though the two can be related.
  • In this context, it means charging a premium when there is a shortage.
  • A black market occurs when the price at which a product is sold is higher than an administratively determined price.


Action not taken in the best of times now strikes back at us in the worst of times.

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