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 Health is Wealth
Fake drugs are a real menace
Mint, India Thursday, June 3, 2010

Nick Schulz
A lot of good could be said of the Indian pharmaceutical industry. Indian companies have moved beyond simply copying western products. Concern about fake drugs is one big problem India faces. A recent report by Legatum Institute and Liberty Institute brings out this issue, writes Nick Schulz in Mint.

By many important measures, the Indian pharmaceutical industry is thriving. Indian firms are increasingly seen as innovators, losing their earlier global reputation as copycat firms happy to free ride on Western medical advances.


There remains at least one obstacle, however, to India’s continued rise as a pharmaceutical power: concerns over quality and safety in the supply chain. If India can overcome these concerns—something a report published on 18 May indicates is possible—the sky is the limit for Indian firms to push the technological frontier in this critical industry.

Concerns about fake and substandard drugs have led to multiple actions by governments around the world to hinder trade in Indian medicines.


The Indian government has pushed back against this common perception, releasing a report late last year claiming that the vast majority of drugs produced in India were of high quality. But that government-sponsored report was likely far too optimistic.


The extent of India’s actual drug quality problem is suggested by a new report co-sponsored by the London-based Legatum Institute and the New Delhi-based Liberty Institute, A Safe Medicines Chest for the World: Preventing Substandard Products from Tainting India’s Pharmaceuticals.


Their findings are encouraging in some respects, but deeply troubling in others.

First, the good news. The majority of drugs the investigators studied were of good quality.

But the problems they did find are real and serious. In Delhi, 80% of the sampled pharmacies were providing at least some substandard medicines (ranging from drugs with zero-active ingredient to those with chalk or talcum powder substituting for active ingredient). In Chennai, almost 40% of the surveyed pharmacies were found to have sold some below-standard products.

Meanwhile, 7% of the samples from wholesale traders that the researchers investigated were found to be of poor quality.

... ...

So what can be done to ensure higher quality and safety across the Indian drug supply chain? The researchers, who include my colleague at the American Enterprise Institute Roger Bate, offer several useful suggestions.

For starters, government officials at the national and state levels must get serious about intellectual property (IP) protections, including trademark infringement. And officials must do this not only within India but also at the international level—in multilateral venues such as the World Trade Organization.

... ...

India also needs serious judicial reform.


The authors also find that “private companies are finding innovative ways of preserving the identity of their products from counterfeiters, through serialization systems (utilizing new technologies) and more secure supply chains”. This is great news for consumers and, coupled with public sector reforms, means that India’s future, as a leader in the health and life-science industries, will be bright.

This article was published in the Mint on Thursday, June 3, 2010. Please read the original article here.
Author : Nick Schul is research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute & writes the Techno-Ideas column
Tags- Find more articles on - India | Legatum Institute | Liberty Institute | Nick Schulz | pharmaceuticals

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