While the pharmaceutical industry has recorded an impressive, makers and sellers of spurious drugs “are spoiling not only the name of the pharma industry, but also causing great harm to the country’s image,” Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad said here on Monday.

He was addressing industry captains on the occasion of the inauguration of the Zonal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Bhavan in Mumbai. In the context of spurious drugs, Mr. Azad said, “It is of paramount importance that the credibility of the industry is maintained. It is our bounden duty not only to manufacture and provide affordable drugs, but also to ensure the efficacy and credibility in international market. To achieve this, government and pharma industry should work together and act decisively to root out this menace of spurious drugs.”

Manohar Naik, Minister of FDA, Maharashtra, said there were 12,000 cases of food adulteration and 2,400 cases of drug adulteration. He also warned that with technological advancement the materials used for adulteration had also changed to chemical additives, even urea. Special courts

The Health minister said the government would soon consider setting up of special courts for trial of offences under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940. “To begin with, special courts could be set up in cities and districts where there is a concentration of drugs and pharmaceutical industries. Gradually we could try to establish more special courts, as and when the situation may demand.”

Mr. Azad also reminded the audience of the Whistleblower policy whereby a reward of Rs. 25 lakh would be given to the person coming forth with concrete information on manufacturing of spurious drugs.

Mr. Azad also expressed concern about “some drug manufacturing agencies resorting to unfair means for promoting the sale of their products by providing incentives like gifts, foreign travels etc. to doctors.”

Presenting the plight of the poor, the Minister said he had personally come across two occasions where private hospitals had refused to release dead bodies till money had been deposited.

Seize the day

In the event of drugs worth $80 billion going off patent, Mr. Azad urged industry heads to seize the day and “harness the fullest benefit from this opportunity to the advantage of the Indian economy.” He said, “With India’s capacity to manufacture drugs at competitive prices there is a big opportunity in the drug manufacturing sector.”

Mr. Azad said the Indian pharmaceutical industry was the fourth largest in the world in terms of volumes and 14th in terms of value. Despite global recession, this industry had registered “a robust growth of 12 per cent in the first three quarters of the current financial year.”

Come invest!

Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan who attended the inauguration made a pitch for investment in the pharmaceutical sector in the State. “Come to Maharashtra and invest in Maharashtra. Tell me what you want and I will [do it]. Growth and employment are needed in the underdeveloped parts of Maharashtra. We are ready to look after the interests of the industry and into your requirements. Do tell us what sort of administration measures you expect. We are here for the growth of business and see that masses benefit from the R&D [research and development],” he exhorted. Mr. Chavan said although the issue of adulteration was a serious one, the entire industry need not be blamed.

In the wake of the recent swine flu outbreak in the city, he urged the Central government to provide more testing facilities as the existing ones were inadequate to tackle epidemics.

Six states

The Zonal FDA Bhavan is a single-stop regulatory building of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) West Zone, which has its jurisdiction over the States of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Goa and the Union Territory of Daman and Diu, and Silvassa.

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