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Mainstream, VOL 60 No 48 November 19, 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Nov 19, 2022

Saturday 19 November 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Nov 19, 2022

Over the past decades the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry in India has acquired a name for itself as the pharmacy of the world that supply’s an estimated sixty percent of the world’s vaccines and about twenty percent of all of generic medicines. This standing of the industry had been partly tarnished in the past when a major scandal broke around a particular Indian Parma company called Ranbaxy over its manipulation of clinical drug trials. Other bad apples today threaten the reputation of the India’s pharmaceutical firms. In late September 2022 the world’s media reported death of over 60 children in the West African nation of Gambia after consuming some contaminated medicines manufactured in India. On October 5, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued an alert against four cough and cold syrups that may be responsible for serious kidney injuries leading to the death of the infants. The news on this health disaster spread fast in other countries of Africa. In wake of WHO alert Gambian authorities confiscated thousands of doses of the cough syrup made and exported by an Indian drug manufacturer called Maiden. Fearing repercussions India’s drug regulator Central Drugs Standard Control Organization and Haryana’s state level authorities eventually shut down production at the company in Sonipat. Given the past record of this company of reportedly producing bad quality drugs it should have long been blacklisted and its production licences annulled. Media reports say that none of the four drugs exported to Gambia by this firm are sold in India. This is particularly shocking and should be cause of huge concern. The Indian Government, it’s health czars and the industry associations of the Pharma Industry must to take responsibility to ensure that bad guys in the sensitive Pharmaceutical sector be systematically identified and kept in check. The authorities must ensure greater scrutiny over quality of medicines produced in India and this means more independent lab testing facilities and an enlarged corp of well-trained medical inspectors (and protect whistle blowers). The authorities can learn many lessons by putting in place a tighter norms on safe handling and safe manufacture of pharma components and by building a common database of relevant case data on instances of substandard or hazardous drugs and record of all that has gone wrong leading to health disasters or the potential for it. Safety and monitoring to keep sub-standard medicines at bay is in the business interests of the Pharma sector. Health activists, concerned citizens and readers of Mainstream should express empathy with Gambians. Spurious medicines are damaging for us all. We must also ask questions? Will there be punitive action against the firm in question responsible for poisonous production & commercialisation? The Pharma Industry associations better be prepared at the prospect of a possible future international law suit seeking damages from victims families? It’s time to wake up.

November 19, 2022 - HK

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