Duo’s Campaign To Uncover Loopholes in India’s Drugs Manufacturing


Set off warning: Descriptions of sickness, demise of youngsters 

Two-year-old Fatoumatta was among the many 69 kids who died because of acute kidney failure in The Gambia, in a sequence of such instances since July this yr. Her father mentioned he took her to the hospital after she developed a fever. Right here, she was recognized with malaria and prescribed a syrup. 

She was lifeless throughout the week. 

In an interview with Africa Information, her father recalled, “She couldn’t eat something and was oozing blood from her nostril and mouth….Sooner or later, I used to be praying for God to take her life.” 

These deaths had been linked to 4 cough syrups manufactured by Indian agency Maiden Prescribed drugs, primarily based in Sonepat, Haryana. 

Earlier this month, the World Well being Organisation (WHO) recognized these medicine as Promethazine Oral Answer, Kofexmalin Child Cough Syrup, Makoff Child Cough Syrup and Magrip N Chilly Syrup. 

WHO acknowledged that the syrups had been discovered with “unacceptable quantities of diethylene glycol (DEG) and ethylene glycol”, and expressed issues that whereas these had been solely recognized in The Gambia to this point, they may have been “distributed…to different international locations or areas”. 

Resultant investigations, together with a report by The Tribune, claimed that Maiden had “cast take a look at reviews of uncooked supplies similar to propylene glycol”. Their investigation additionally confirmed that the syrups, produced from the identical uncooked materials, allegedly “confirmed totally different expiration dates” and that the agency “didn’t have the amenities to check the uncooked materials”. 

Even those that have no idea the intricacies of drug manufacturing and regulation in India can be alarmed at how a rustic thought to be “the world’s pharmacy” might let medicine go with so many pink flags. 

This turns into much more regarding once we perceive that this isn’t the primary such case, by any means, that harmless lives have been put at stake on account of doubtful manufacturing practices. 

“In 2020, cough syrup laced with excessive quantities of DEG brought on the demise of 12 kids in Ramnagar. As many as 33 kids died after receiving cough medicines contaminated with DEG in Gurgaon in 1998,” famous The Lancet

And of their guide The Fact Tablet: The Fable of Drug Regulation in India, authors Prashant Reddy T and Dinesh Thakur spotlight many different such instances in addition to how guidelines, rules, and legal guidelines surrounding high quality checks and drug manufacturing in India have been flawed, misused, misinterpreted and even ignored.

The guide, says Thakur, is “an earnest effort…to teach our fellow women and men in regards to the fact and actuality of our drug provide”. 

And the authors are not any novices on the subject of this situation. 

Thakur is a public well being activist thought to be a “pharma crusader”, most notably for exposing his former employer Ranbaxy Laboratories for its failure to conduct correct security and high quality exams, in addition to for falsifying information to obtain approval for generic medicine. 

dinesh thakur, author of the book truth pill and a public health activist most known for his role as a whistleblower of malpractice at ranbaxy
Writer Dinesh Thakur, who is thought for his advocacy for reform in drug manufacturing in India and the US (Photograph courtesy: Rachna Kalra)

“I went to highschool at Osmania College for my Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering after which to the College of New Hampshire for my Masters. I used to be employed by Bristol-Myers Squibb for eleven years earlier than coming to work in India for Ranbaxy. The remainder is historical past,” he tells The Higher India

Thakur served because the director and world head of analysis data and portfolio administration on the agency. Together with his supervisor Dr Raj Kumar, he reported his findings of scrupulous practices, first, to the board of administrators at Ranbaxy, and later — after the pharma firm refused to take motion — to the US Meals & Drug Administration (FDA). 

Due to Thakur’s efforts, in 2013, Ranbaxy USA Inc pleaded responsible to promoting adulterated medicine, failing to report medicine that didn’t meet specs, and falsifying statements to the federal government, amongst others. The corporate paid a whopping $500 million to resolve the claims, which was on the time the biggest monetary penalty paid by any generic drug maker within the US for violating FDCA norms. 

In the meantime, Reddy is a lawyer with a eager curiosity in mental property regulation, drug regulatory legal guidelines, and transparency legal guidelines. 

After finishing his levels from NLU and Stanford, he practised as a lawyer in IP litigation groups throughout New Delhi, labored as a analysis affiliate, and taught mental property rights and administrative regulation. Since 2020, he has labored as an advisor at a affected person advocacy group arrange by Thakur and in addition serves as a director for the Thakur Household Basis Inc, an organisation that funds analysis on public well being and civil rights in India.

About his determination to quit a profession at a regulation agency to affix Thakur’s advocacy, he says, “Properly, it isn’t every single day that you simply get a chance to work with a whistleblower on a problem as difficult as drug regulation. By the point I began working with Dinesh, I had some expertise in coping with drug regulatory points whereas practising regulation, however even I used to be not ready for all that we uncovered throughout the course of writing The Fact Tablet.” 

prashant reddy t, author of the book the truth pill and a lawyer known for his activism for more transparency in drug regulation in india
Prashant Reddy is a lawyer who has labored extensively in mental property regulation, drug regulatory legal guidelines, and transparency legal guidelines. (Photograph courtesy: Rachna Kalra) 

The ‘pharmacy of the world’ 

The guide makes stunning but eye-opening revelations about loopholes in drug manufacturing in India, tracing the historical past of medication from pre-colonial and colonial instances to its present-day standing, how “a lot of drug regulatory regulation has been written with the blood of residents who died in a whole lot”, lack of accountability, and lots of such gaps which have roughly been left unaddressed. 

It additionally highlights that since independence, India has seen 5 instances of DEG poisoning, but, the scenario stays unchanged. 

Whereas different international locations such because the US realized from the primary such occasion to overtake present legal guidelines and make approach for higher regulation, India has been unable to do the identical. The issue, they are saying, lies with not solely regulation but in addition its enforcement, in that there are numerous components and loopholes that result in little repercussions for scrupulous practices. 

However probably the most heartbreaking side highlighted is that those that undergo probably the most are the poorest of the poor, and extra importantly, kids, whose our bodies are small and never outfitted to cope with the intense well being repercussions of such medicine. 

“Individuals who had been affected by this atrocity didn’t even have the vocabulary to articulate what they thought was mistaken and [why they] suspected it.” Dinesh Thakur

Although the guide has been years within the making, its launch in October this yr quite morbidly coincided with the incident in The Gambia. “[This] apathy exists as a result of there’s zero accountability,” Thakur says. “Take this current case….has there been even one press convention? The place is the outrage from the folks of the nation?” 

the truth pill, co authored by dinesh thakur and prashant reddy, gives a scathing account of the loopholes in medicine manufacturing in india
The Fact Tablet, co-authored by Dinesh Thakur and Prashant Reddy, provides a scathing account of the loopholes in drugs manufacturing in India (Image courtesy: Rachna Kalra)

Explaining what prompted them to write down this intensive evaluation of drug regulation, he says, “Prashant and I spent plenty of time growing a set of authorized arguments, which we then took to the Supreme Courtroom within the type of two public curiosity litigations (PIL). Sadly, the court docket thought the problems we had been elevating and the prayers we had been asking had been ‘educational’.” 

He continues, “After exhausting each administrative and authorized treatments, the one different choice that was obtainable to us was to teach the folks of this nation. Therefore, this guide.” 

As a result of Thakur is an OCI (abroad citizen of India), he didn’t have the correct to file RTIs. Therefore, a lot of the analysis was led by Reddy and his group of analysis assistants. 

“We additionally relied on the reviews of the Parliamentary Standing Committees, judgements from Courts of Judicial Magistrates and Excessive Courts and a historic file of debates within the Constituent Meeting earlier than [India] grew to become unbiased,” he explains. “Our previous expertise was related in the way in which we analysed the information we secured.” 

Reddy notes, “Through the years, we now have finessed our RTI expertise. Coping with regulatory authorities isn’t very simple, which is why as a substitute of relying solely on regulators for data, we tapped into the e-courts database to additionally try to perceive how these courts proceeded by way of the judicial system.”

Behind the scenes of medication manufacturing 

Among the many evident inconsistencies highlighted in The Fact Tablet was the standing of regulation in Himachal Pradesh, the ‘pharmaceutical hub’ of the nation. 

For example, the authors reported that the Composite Testing Laboratory in Solan had only one HPCL (Excessive Efficiency Liquid Chromatography) machine that was over 16 years previous. HPCL machines are instrumental in separating, figuring out, and quantifying every ingredient in a drug pattern, and assessing whether or not the drug dissolves as meant. Even Delhi had just one such machine, which was purchased in as early as 2004. 

Furthermore, the variety of medicine examined in every state was abysmal, to say the least. 

“For instance, West Bengal, which has a inhabitants of 90 million, examined simply 2,637 samples between 1 January 2016 and February 2022. In the identical interval in Delhi, [which has] a inhabitants of 19 million folks, drug inspectors despatched merely 3,433 samples for testing — of those, the laboratory operated by the Medicine Management Division of Delhi claimed to have examined solely 2,610 samples. Bihar, however, with a inhabitants of 128.3 million folks, examined merely 14,103 samples throughout the identical time interval,” the guide revealed.

The guide additionally traces how, regardless of a lot of medicine discovered to be NSQ (not of normal high quality), prosecution is missing in most such instances. The authors opine that prosecution tips themselves inform drug inspectors and regulators to not prosecute until it’s “the final resort”, in gross violation of the Medicine and Cosmetics Act, 1940. 

Thakur says, “We use the federal government’s personal information to make our case, as a result of the prevalent narrative, as we describe within the guide, is that the pushback is available in one among two methods.”

He elaborates, “First is to accuse anybody demanding accountability as a overseas agent making an attempt to besmirch the repute of the nation because the ‘pharmacy to the growing world’ and second, within the types of threats and intimidation.”

‘Simply two voices amongst many’ 

When it comes to what may be performed to rectify and reform India’s drug regulatory system, the authors opine that the strategy wanted should be multifold. 

The very first thing to do, they are saying, is settle for the gaps within the regulatory framework within the first place as extra than simply “a conspiracy concept”. Additionally they ask for “citizen advocacy and intrepid journalism”, a bigger concentrate on public well being than solely financial development, a extra centralised strategy to regulation with democratic accountability, and empowering residents with data and the correct to take part. 

Thakur notes, “We hope everybody reads the guide. To be able to make a cogent argument, one must be armed with information. The guide gives this information. We additionally hope that individuals start to demand extra accountability from their elected representatives on the subject of the availability and the standard of our healthcare.” 

On the identical day because the launch of their guide, the authors acquired a discover from the Central Medicine Commonplace Management Organisation (CDSCO) threatening authorized motion for his or her feedback relating to drug regulation and the alleged function of the authority in The Gambia incident. 

Thakur says, “We stand by every little thing we mentioned within the guide. It’s substantiated by the Authorities’s personal responses to over 400 RTIs. We’ve got made all our main analysis public. It’s obtainable in a searchable database. We’ve got already responded to the CDSCO’s authorized discover [and] defined the premise of the statements we made, and identified the place they took our feedback out of context.” 

Whereas Thakur and Reddy are main a renewed curiosity within the dialog round drug regulation in India, the activist says they’re “simply two voices amongst many”. 

a representational image of a local pharmacy in india
The guide additionally traces how, regardless of a lot of medicine discovered to be NSQ (not of normal high quality), prosecution is missing in most such instances. (Picture: Representational)

“As we checklist in our guide, there have been others who’ve tried to boost this situation up to now, solely to face retaliation and retribution….Transparency and accountability are two key pillars of fine governance.” 

Reddy notes, “One among our key calls for is for higher transparency by way of proactive publication of inspection reviews, take a look at reviews, and so on. As soon as this data is definitely obtainable we count on journalists and/or unusual residents to comply with the problem extra persistently and put strain on the federal government.” 

Thakur says, “Our greatest studying on this course of has been to persevere. It is a lengthy sport….Our paperwork exists to frustrate any demand for accountability from the folks of the nation. The one technique to make it accountable is to demand transparency and maintain them accountable for the selections they make, particularly these that aren’t within the curiosity of the residents of this nation.” 

You should buy The Fact Tablet right here. That is an affiliate hyperlink. If you are going to buy the guide utilizing this hyperlink, The Higher India will get a small fee.  

Edited by Yoshita Rao

The Fact Tablet: The Fable of Drug Regulation in India by Dinesh Singh Thakur and Prashant Reddy Thikkavarapu
Spurious medicine: Maiden Pharma ‘cast’ uncooked materials take a look at reviews: Written by Bhartesh Singh Thakur for The Tribune, Printed on 15 October 2022 
Sharma, D. C. (2022, October 22). Cough syrup deaths expose lax drug regulation in India. The Lancet. Retrieved October 26, 2022, from https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(22)02026-8/fulltext?rss=sure
Pharma crusader Dinesh Thakur takes India’s drug regulators to court docket:  Written by Zeba Siddiqui for Reuters, Printed on 7 March 2016
India should act on drug adulteration – lives world wide are at stake: Written by Dinesh S Thakur and Prashant Reddy Thikkavarapu for The Guardian, Printed on 17 October 2022 
‘The Position Of The Regulator Is To Shield The Public, Not Pharma Firms’: Written by Kavitha Iyer for Article 14, Printed on 19 October 2022 


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