Mashelkar Panel To Tackle Spurious Drugs Problem

New Delhi, January 27: | Updated: Jan 28 2003, 05:30am hrs
The government has decided to set up a high-level expert committee under Dr RA Mashelkar, director general of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research to address the issue of spurious drugs. The committee has been given six months to submit its report.

This was disclosed to pharmaceutical industry representatives at a meeting here, called to discuss ways and means to tackle the menace of spurious drugs, by Union health and family welfare minister Shatrughan Sinha.

One of the key suggestions by the industry was introducing innovative means of packaging and markings, including holograms. This would make it difficult and expensive to manufacture drugs spuriously, and contribute to driving them out of business.

Industry sources pointed out that though it was possible to create packaging differentiation between genuine and fake, one of the hurdles was the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA). Prices fixed by NPPA include packaging and this discourages manufacturers from going in for innovative packaging as this would not be cost-feasible.

Industry asked for product and packaging pricing to be fixed separately by NPPA. Mr Sinha promised to take up this matter personally and even speak to his counterpart in the ministry of chemicals and fertilisers, if need be, to bring about some flexibility.

The government in turn raised the question of industry itself taking steps to check trade in spurious drugs especially at centres of such trade, like the Bhagirath Place in Delhi.

Former Central Bureau of Investigation director Vijay Karan, who is now leading the efforts of Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA) to expose those involved in this trade, made a strong representation. He said it was only with the help of police and drug inspectors offenders could be brought to book, but lack of enough manpower and slow procedures were blunting the effectiveness of the industrys efforts.

Participants also pointed out that much of the output of spurious drugs was coming out of the small scale units, but there was little that came in terms of ideas to tackle this. Curbs did not seem feasible as it could also be a politically sensitive issue. There was even a suggestion for introducing the death penalty for offenders.

Other suggestions included running consumer awareness campaigns. Keeping the popularity of the actor-turned-minister, Mr Sinha was even invited to feature in any awareness advertisements..

The meeting was attended by representatives of Ranbaxy, Pfizer, Alembic, IPA and Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India, besides others.