From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : API
Mains level : Regulating pharma sector
- The Health Ministry may soon make it mandatory for companies to include codes to track-and-trace key ingredients used to make medicines in India
- If implemented, the move will potentially be the first step by the government to pinpoint the origin and movement of drugs manufactured here and ensures their authenticity.
QR code for drugs tracking
- A draft amendment mandating quick response (QR) codes at “each” level of packaging of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), used to give medicines their therapeutic effect is ready and will be notified soon.
- An API is the basic drug/ingredient in a pharmaceutical drug or pesticide that is biologically active.
- For a medicine to be effective, the API has to be effective.
- As a first step to tracking and tracing medicines in the country every API manufactured or imported in India will bear a QR code on its label at each level of packaging.
- India is currently dependent on China for imports of APIs to make certain essential medicines.
Why such move?
- The Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient is most important constituent of any drug formulation.
- The supply chain with respect to its security and integrity in proper storage condition plays very important role to enhance quality supply of APIs.
- API manufacturers should be held accountable and responsible for the quality and purity of their products.
- APIs by “various” vendors have been found to be not as per defined specifications with respect to their quality, specifications and purity and in certain cases the desired effects are not obtained.
- Often APIs are not manufactured at the right premises or such APIs are not manufactured with the required scientific techniques to produce the bio-active substance.
Curbing fake drugs
- Drug regulators in India on many occasions flagged medicines produced by even large drug makers for failing quality tests.
- There is lack of clarity on the scale of India’s counterfeit and substandard drug problem.
- The US, in its Special 301 Report this year, estimated that up to 20 per cent of drugs sold in the Indian market are counterfeit and could represent a serious threat to patient health and safety.
- However, a nationwide survey conducted by the Indian government between 2014 and 2016 concluded that only around 3 per cent of the medicines here were substandard and only 0.023 per cent spurious or counterfeit.