After scores across Kollam were hospitalised with symptoms of fever, swelling in the body and itchiness over the last few months, the Kerala police are on the lookout for a quack who reportedly sold counterfeit drugs to these persons.
The accused - Laxman Raj - is a self professed 'traditional healer' who has allegedly sold counterfeit drugs door-to-door to persons suffering from different kinds of ailments.
According to the police, Laxman claimed he could cure persons with psoriasis, eczema, arthritis and digestive ailments completely, by getting them to buy and consume counterfeit medicines. He reportedly began selling the adulterated medicines in November and charged anywhere between Rs 5,000-20,000 for the 'medication'.
Many of his patients consumed the 'medication' for over 10 days, before they developed serious symptoms such as high fever, itchiness and swelling on their bodies. While scores have reportedly been affected by the quackâ€™s fraudulent medication, police have identified five persons who have been hospitalised.
Four-year-old Mohammad Ali from Anchal, one of Laxmanâ€™s victims was prescribed his counterfeit pill for eczema back in November. After 10 days, the child was rushed to the Child Development Centre (CDC) in the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College hospital with extreme symptoms. Here, the doctors treating Mohammad Ali identified that the 'medicines' he was consuming could have triggered the reaction. On testing these pills, they also found out that the drugs had beyond permissible quantities of mercury in them, causing mercury poisoning. The child was also put on ventilator support for a day to recover from the effects of the counterfeit drugs.
Fake pills sold by Laxman Raj. Photo credits: Asianet News
"There was 73 percent more mercury in his body. He was given medicines for this and after that was put on ventilator support," Ubaiid, Mohammad Ali's father and complainant, told Asianet News.
Another elderly patient who had also consumed Laxman's 'medication' said, "I felt some uneasiness in my stomach when I took the pills. And I could not move my legs due to the pain."
While reports have stated that over 100 persons in Kollam have been hospitalised after consuming Laxmanâ€™s 'medication', the Eroor police have not verified these claims.
"So far, we are aware that 5 persons in our station limits have been hospitalised after taking this counterfeit medication. We are not sure where the number 100 came from. However, cases have been reported from other neighbourhoods of Kollam such as Anchal. The accused was a hippie and it is highly likely that he moved from place-to-place to sell the 'drugs,'" Circle Inspector of Eroor police station told TNM.
A case has been registered under IPC sections 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 274 (adulteration of drugs), 275 (sale of adulteration of drugs), 276 (Sale of drug as a different drug or preparation), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) of the IPC against Laxman. However, the police are yet to find any details about the accused who is absconding.
"From our investigations, he is not native to Kollam. Some sources have told us that he is a native of Telangana. However, we are yet to confirm this," the CI added.
Meanwhile, the counterfeit medicines have been handed over to the possession of drug officers who will publish results on the type of chemicals present in the counterfeit medication. The drug samples have been taken to run tests on, in laboratory in Thiruvananthapuram.
The 'medication' prescribed by the quack was a mix of homeopathy, allopathy and English medicine, according to the patients who consumed the drugs.