Are medicines made in India safe? | Podcast in the spotlight

Nakul Pasricha tells us about the manufacturing and supply of medicines in India, and the recent global warning about cough syrups made in the country which have been declared unsafe by the WHO.

Nakul Pasricha tells us about the manufacturing and supply of medicines in India, and the recent global warning about cough syrups made in the country which have been declared unsafe by the WHO.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization issued a global warning about four cough syrups which it said were substandard and unsafe products, and their use, especially in children, could “result in serious injury or death”. These four Promethazine Oral Solution cough syrups, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup and Magrip N Cold Syrup, were manufactured by Haryana-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals Ltd. The drugs have been “potentially linked” to the deaths of more than 60 children in The Gambia, a West African country. The drugs, according to the WHO, contained “unacceptable amounts” of two “contaminants” – diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, which are toxic.

Diethylene glycol, which is typically used in industrial products, would be used in drugs as an adulterant to cut costs. This is not the first case of death from diethylene glycol – there have been several cases in India as well, the latest being the death of 14 children in Jammu in December 2019.

India is the world’s largest generic drug maker and supplies a range of drugs to some 200 countries, meeting around half of the world’s demand for vaccines. It supplies almost 40% of the demand for generic drugs in the United States and supplies around a quarter of all drugs in the UK. The industry is growing rapidly and is estimated at around US$49 billion.

The Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) and the Haryana State Drugs Controller have ordered a halt to all manufacturing activity at Maiden Pharmaceuticals Ltd following the deaths in The Gambia, and an expert committee has been set up to look into the matter. .

But where is the responsibility of drugs? Who enforces our counterfeit drug laws and are they sufficient? Do we have enough resources to check all drugs made in India to ensure they are safe for consumers? What is the role of the pharmaceutical industry here and what does it take to ensure that no counterfeit or substandard drugs end up in a patient?

Guest: Nakul Pasricha, President and CEO, PharmaSecure, an organization that works for the safety and authenticity of pharmaceutical products. Also President, Association of Authentication Solution Providers

Host: Zubeda Hamid

Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian

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