States asked to form detection cells

CHENNAI DEC. 24. In an effort to preclude the entry of spurious drugs into the market, the office of the Drugs Controller of India has asked States to constitute a `Detection Cell'.

The cell will identify areas where the drugs are being introduced into the market within the State and plug the loopholes, said the Drugs Controller-General of India, Ashwini Kumar. ``The sporadic reports of spurious and counterfeit drugs in parts of the country continue to cause serious concern. Non-harmonisation of drug enforcement across the States also remains a challenge.''

Though in other developed nations, the distribution chain of drugs was handled professionally, fake drugs managed to creep into the market. ``It is clear that certain areas are pushing some products, including drugs into the market. Perhaps the figures are blown up by the media without actual substantiation. However, that is no reason for complacence,'' said Mr. Kumar, who was here recently to preside over the 55th Indian Pharmaceutical Congress.

It was as part of the initiative to crack down on the spurious drug industry that capital punishment was incorporated. ``It is more in the nature of psychological deterrence. If some one has introduced fake drugs into the market and some grievous hurt has been caused then, he/she can attract the maximum punishment.'' It was more significant that the offence had been made non-bailable, preventing the accused from hampering investigation, Mr. Kumar said.

Even broad estimates of the magnitude of the problem could not be arrived at for, circulation of spurious drugs was a clandestine activity. ``We cannot say to what extent it is being carried out in the country. We know, though, that it is not a serious problem. However, we should have zero tolerance. Even if it is 0.5 per cent, we should be concerned.''

The office of the Drugs Controller of India had sanctioned financial assistance to drug testing laboratories throughout the country and also called for constitution of the detection cell. Though Tamil Nadu did not have a worrying record in spurious drugs, it was necessary to remain vigilant.

``The Indian drug regulatory set-up, in spite of severe constraints in terms of infrastructure, has made consistent efforts to introduce new legislation and policies to remain globally competitive,'' Mr. Kumar said. ``Some of the progressive measures undertaken in the last few years had the potential to usher in a qualitative change in drug regulation and medicine management.''

Mr. Kumar said India was poised to become the preferred global destination for drug development research including clinical research. ``We should encourage this trend. We are already providing customs duty exemption for clinical trial drugs,'' he added.

``At the moment, India consumes drugs that are being developed in Western countries and tested on Westerners. India should not miss out on this. We have to participate in trials on a global level.''

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