The panel report on regulatory and other issues facing the pharmaceuticals industry is due to be released shortly, but FE has managed to access a copy of the same undergoing a final check before being published. The government and industry have for long being trying to curb the trade in spurious drugs, but with little success so far. Estimates of this illegal activity go up to as high as Rs 4,000 crore annually, or a fifth of all pharma business in the country.
The committee has pointed out that while the current Schedule K allows registered medical practitioners to supply medicines to their patients, they may purchase supplies only from licenced dealers or manufacturers with proper records maintained. Since this is not always the case, the report says drug inspectors and state authorities be more stringent in carrying out checks.
Likewise the committee has recommended strong measures for dealers unable to produce proper documentation of their purchases and sales so they exercise more diligence when making procurements from unauthorised sources. Special courts are recommended for simpler and speedier trials of offenders. Courts are also advised to make the offences non-bailable and cognizable in light of similar provisions in Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, with no bail application to be admitted for at least three months after arrest.
The committee also feels there is a need for secret funds for the battle against this deadly trade with incentives being offered to informers.
A certain restriction on issuing licences to retailers and wholesalers could be helpful, according to the report. Too many chemists in close proximity resulting in cut-throat competition may lead to purchases from unauthorised sources for economic reasons. However, the report does say the feasibility of this suggestion needs to be examined further.
In its interim report a few months back, the committee had recommended death penalty for offenders. While some members still prescribe to this view, others feels this may lead to trials becoming even more complicated and lengthy. But there is consensus that penalties should be enhanced for offenders.