In the wake of recent controversies surrounding the Central Drugs Standards Control Organisation (CDSCO), the Union Health Ministry is learnt to have been taking steps to improve compliance and crack down on corruption.
Sources in the know said that an internal e-mail was circulated among CDSCO officials earlier this week which explicitly stated that a no tolerance policy would be followed in cases of corruption. “The surveillance mechanism too, is being revamped – including regular close-circuit television monitoring, visitors register monitoring etc,” the source said.
In its FIR, the Central Bureau of Investigation had stated that Dinesh Dua, director, Synergy Network had met Joint Drugs Controller Eswara Reddy on June 15 in his office in connection with approval of Biocon Biologics files, and later in the day it was approved by the subject expert committee.
The CDSCO thus plans to monitor visitors to any of its officials closely, and avoid any casual visits.
Meanwhile, the Centre has decided to introduce QR codes for ensuring authenticity and traceability for 300 common drug brands including analgesics, vitamins, diabetes and hypertension medicines etc. This step is aimed at preventing spurious drugs from getting into circulation.
The Union Ministry of Health has made necessary amendments to the Drugs Rules, 1945, to implement this. In March the ministry had asked the department of pharmaceuticals (DoP) to shortlist the 300 drug brands that can be included for implementation of mandatory QR codes. The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) had identified the list of 300 drugs which include widely used medicines like pain-killers, contraceptives, vitamins, blood-sugar and hypertension medicines, etc.
Popular brands like Dolo, Allegra, Asthalin, Augmentin, Saridon, Limcee, Calpol, Corex, Thyronorm, Unwanted 72 etc were identified. (see list) These high selling brands have been shortlisted based on their moving annual turnover (MAT) value.
According to reports, the health ministry has suspended three scientists associated with Central Drugs Laboratory, Kolkata, India’s apex lab, responsible for conducting quality checks on drugs and vaccines in relation to fake remdesivir sales. These scientists submitted their report to the CDSCO after the batch of remdesivir drugs expired. An investigation by the Health Ministry had revealed that the sample of remdesivir was spurious, and thus the three accused were trying to conceal that in their quality report to the CDSCO.
Interestingly, remdesivir does not feature in the list of 300 brands that would bear QR codes.