Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Calling for stringent regulations on the import and export of drugs and food items to meet the global competition, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said the items people consume should be of the highest quality.

Inaugurating the building of the Food and Drugs Authority here on Monday, Mr. Mukherjee said it was important for the industry to adopt the good manufacturing practices if India had to compete in the international trade that had been speeded up by the World Trade Organisation regime. For this, the Indian industry may require global pharmacy and hence it is important to harness the potential of the scientists and scientific institutions, he said.

Mr. Mukherjee said it was equally important that the public and the private sector grew together. “If we acquire sophisticated equipment in the laboratories, we also need to train the personnel to handle them and a regulator who can act as a watch dog,” he said .

Speaking on the occasion, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said the government proposed to expand the national pharmacovigilance programme across the country by linking 284 medical colleges, research institutions, and hospitals. In this regard the government will introduce Information Technology-enabled services in the regulatory framework in the food and drugs sector.

“To safeguard our national interest, both industry and the public, it is important that we are able to respond to any new developments in these sectors,” Dr. Ramadoss said. In this context, the government has introduced a Bill in Parliament which seeks to create the Central Drug Authority. At present, the Bill is under the consideration of the Parliamentary Standing Committee. An amendment to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act is also under consideration to enhance the punishment for manufacturing and selling spurious, misbranded and substandard drugs. The Bill is expected to be taken up during the ensuing session of Parliament, he said.

Dr. Ramadoss also made it clear that India would not allow the multinational companies to take up the critical phase first clinical trials until there was a strictly enforced regulatory and globally accepted system in place at all levels. India would not allow its people to be used as guinea pigs, he said.

The new building will house the Authority and the proposed Central Drugs Authority office. The Food Safety and Standards Authority, an autonomous body, will set standards for different food articles and will implement the integrated food law — Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. Currently, this work is being done by different ministries and departments. It is hoped that this single authority would substantially cut the procedural delays.