According to US-FDA, its ‘Import Bans’ on quality grounds of the drugs manufactured at various Indian facilities, such as, Ranbaxy’s Paonta Sahib, Dewas and Mohali and Toansa plants, were reportedly solely directed at negating the health safety risks of American patients consuming those medicines.
US Media now raises a critical question:
Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has now flagged a very valid question, whether such US-FDA drug ‘Import Bans’ have really worked in the best interest of American patients, as it has cost the US consumers millions of dollars.
Vindicates past apprehensions:
I also had raised similar apprehensions, at least twice, in my blog posts, one in March 17, 2014 in an article titled, “Loss of Ranbaxy, Gain of Big Pharma…And Two Intriguing Coincidences” and the other on June 9, 2014 in another article titled, “Drugs From The Same Indian Plant: Safe For Europe, Unsafe For America, Why?”
Cheaper generic launches got interrupted:
The report states that the ‘Import Bans’ of products manufactured in the above four plants of Ranbaxy kept the Indian company away from its ‘first to launch’ opportunities of at least two blockbuster drugs, namely, Diovan of Novartis and Nexium of AstraZeneca, besides Valcyte of Roche.
As a result of these ‘Import Bans’ of the US-FDA, the concerned global pharma majors were able to continue selling their high priced brands even long after the respective patent expiries, causing hardship to many patients.
Caused windfall gain to Big Pharma:
WSJ reports, these ‘Import Bans’ hugely helped the Big Pharma, as the combined sales of those three drugs in the US totaled US$ 8 billion in 2013. It also states that unavailability of those three generic equivalents would cost US$125 million annually just in 39 counties of upstate New York. This is mainly because once generics are available, patented drug prices usually fall by 80 percent or more.
Thus, the net losers became the purchasers and patients, along with the federal government, the report says.
A serious question to ponder even for the US:
Quoting Columbia Law School professor Scott Hemphill, the report highlights a serious question over whether the US-FDA rules are too complex to manage, or to anticipate strange, unusual and unfortunate consequences that result from them. It also expresses concern over how such delays in generic entry raising the drug treatment costs in the United States.
A repetitive saga:
The saga of losing ‘first to launch’ opportunities, seems to be repetitive in nature for Ranbaxy.
As I stated earlier in my above blog posts, it is also worth noting from another report that:
“Nexium is the third drug for which a Ranbaxy generic has been delayed. Novartis’ heart drug Diovan went off patent in September of 2012. Instead of seeing its sales of the drug plunge last year, the Swiss drug maker earned US $1.7 billion from it, according to the drug maker’s annual report. Roche’s antiviral Valcyte has also escaped competition after going off patent last year. Roche doesn’t break down U.S. sales but reported global revenues of $ 672 million last year, up 10%.”
The same plant meets drug safety standards of Europe, but ‘unsafe’ for America!
In this context it is worth noting, according to another recent media report, quite contrary to the stern actions by US-FDA, European drug regulators have commented as follows on a plant that has been banned by the american regulator:
“The inspection team concluded that there was no evidence that any medicines on the EU market that have an active pharmaceutical ingredient manufactured in Toansa were of unacceptable quality or presented a risk to the health of patients taking them.”
They further added, “This conclusion was supported by tests of samples of these medicines, all of which met the correct quality specifications.”
Isn’t this indeed intriguing?
The USFDA quagmire in India raises more questions than answes, but one critical trend, where the ultimate gainer is the Big Pharma and the net losers are the American patients and the Indian pharma industry.
Be that as it may, it is about time to for the Modi Government to take up this important issue at the highest level in the United States, as the losers would continue to be the domestic pharma manufacturers in India and in the American patients, Big Pharma being the main beneficiary.
Considering all these, doesn’t this jigsaw puzzle require to be resolved once and for all, without any further dilly-dally?
By: Tapan J. Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.