India's Ostrich Drug Policy

Rather than address directly the problems within its industry, India’s Commerce Department and drug industry affiliate groups are claiming “vested interests” are at work to unfairly undermine its reputation. “India is showcasing its best pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities to regulators from emerging economies to counter adverse publicity the country's drug industry has endured in recent times”, reported the Economic Times. 

Health ministers and officials from countries including Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Vietnam, Egypt and the Philippines were hosted by India at the end of 2013. "The idea behind this programme is to promote Indian pharmaceutical exports, apart from improving confidence among the global community that India is a trusted source for quality generics at affordable prices," said PV Appaji, director-general of the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council. "There has been propaganda by vested interests among the global community, particularly trying to project India as a country with poor regulatory standards," said Appaji, echoing remarks by Commerce Department staff.

In any commercial sector there are always vested interests which can benefit from a competitors misfortune, and hence even promote narratives about that misfortune. In that sense India is correct that western industry is probably making the most of India’s problems (although I have seen no public pronouncements to this effect), but that doesn’t mean the problems don’t exist, or even that western industry is misleading anyone about India’s problems.

As the author of the Economic Times piece wrote wrote, “The commerce ministry is of the view that "vested interests" are deliberately tarnishing the Indian drug industry and that some countries are not adequately aware of the stringent regulatory standards being enforced in the domestic market.”

But as we point out in
our working paper with Ranbaxy whistleblower Dinesh Thakur, the idea that India enforces stringent regulatory standards is quite simply laughable.

Until India acknowledges its problems, solutions will not only not be found, but they won’t even be looked for.

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