Many industry experts after having carefully evaluated the provisions of the original draft of the proposal of forming a CDA in the country commended and supported this praiseworthy initiative of the Government. This Bill also known as, “The Drugs & Cosmetics (Amendment) Bill No.LVII of 2007 to amend the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940” was introduced in the ‘Rajya Sabha’ on August 21 2007 and was thereafter referred to ‘The Parliamentary Standing Committee of Health and Family Welfare’ for review. The Committee also has submitted its recommendations to the Government since quite some time. However, the fact still remains that the proposed CDA Bill has not seen the light of the day, as yet.
Mashelkar Committee Recommendation:
It is high time to consider the recommendations of Dr. R. A. Mashelkar Committee on the subject and make amendments in the Act to facilitate the creation of a Central Drugs Authority (CDA) and introduce centralized licensing for the manufacture for sale, export or distribution of drugs.
Seven reasons for the dire need of the CDA in India:
I firmly believe that the formation of the ‘Central Drugs Authority (CDA)’ will provide the following seven significant benefits to the Industry and also to the Government:
1. Achieving uniform interpretation of the provisions of the Drugs & Cosmetics Act & Rules
2. Standardizing procedures and systems for drug control across the country
3. Enabling coordinated nationwide action against spurious and substandard drugs
4. Upholding uniform quality standards with respect to exports to foreign countries from anywhere in India
5. Implementing uniform enforcement action in case of banned and irrational drugs
6. Creating a pan-Indian approach to drug control and administration
7. Evolving a single-window system for pharmaceutical manufacturing and research undertaken anywhere in the country.
Major countries have similar set up even within a federal system:
All major countries of the world have a strong federal drug control and administration system in place for the Pharmaceutical Industry. Like for example, despite strongly independent states within the federal structure of the U.S., the US – FDA is a unified and fully empowered federal government entity.
Similarly, the coming together of many independent countries in Europe has led to the need for a pan-European drug control agency and that responsibility has been vested on the ‘European Medicine Agency (EMEA)’ which has overriding pan-European powers, that is within the European Union (EU).
Thus, a single Central Authority that administers and regulates both pharmaceutical manufacturing and pharmaceutical research is an absolute necessity in India’s bid to be a global hub for drug discovery.
The interim measure:
In my view, till CDA is formed, registration and marketing authorization for all new drugs and fixed-dose combinations should only be granted by Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI). I would like to emphasize, it is essential that there a smooth transition takes place from the existing regulatory environment to the proposed CDA, carefully tightening all the loose knots in the process. All necessary infrastructures along with the required personnel must be in place so that all permissions are granted to applicants within stipulated time frame.
The watershed regulatory reform initiative should not go waste:
Thus the CDA Bill is considered to be a watershed regulatory reform initiative in the pharmaceuticals space of India. This reform, besides all others as discussed above, would have updated the legislation considering the advances the country has made, especially, in the last five decades in clinical research, treatment methods, and sophisticated diagnostic and medical devices.
It now appears that the Government could revive the CDA Bill and reintroduce in the Parliament. It was to be introduced in its monsoon session. However, the plan did not fructify because of various political reasons.
Centralize drug licensing has also been highly opposed by the state drug authorities and some section of the industry. The stated position of these opponents to the CDA Bill highlights that the proposed centralized structure will not be able to deliver as the requisite infrastructure for the same is not in place, as yet.
All these developments bring out the apprehension that the proposal to centralize drug licensing as part of the proposed law, very unfortunately, may get quite diluted because of vested interests.
By Tapan 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.