Many industry experts after having evaluated the provisions of the original draft proposal for forming a Central Drugs Authority (CDA) in the country, commended and supported this laudable 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 Act to facilitate creation of a Central Drugs Authority (CDA) and introduce centralized licensing for manufacturing for sale, export and 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 benefits to the Industry and also 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 for 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, coming together of many independent countries in Europe had led to the need for a pan-European drug control agency. This responsibility was vested on to the ‘European Medicine Agency (EMEA)’ with overriding pan-European authority and powers within the European Union (EU).
Thus, a single Central Authority that administers and regulates both pharmaceutical manufacturing and 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 emphasize, it is essential that 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 timeframe.
The watershed regulatory reform initiative should not get diluted:
The CDA Bill is widely considered as a watershed regulatory reform initiative in the pharmaceuticals space of India. This reform process, besides offering all other benefits as discussed above, would also be able to update the legislation, considering significant advances the country has made since the last five decades, especially in the areas of clinical research, treatment methods, and sophisticated diagnostic and medical devices.
It now appears, the Government could revive the CDA Bill and reintroduce it in the Parliament, sooner. It was to be introduced in its monsoon session. However, the plan did not fructify, as the Parliament could not function due to a logjam created by our politicians.
It is worth noting that the proposed centralize drug licensing mechanism was vehemently opposed by the state drug authorities and some section of the industry. The stated position of the opponents to the CDA Bill apprehends that the centralized structure will not be able to deliver, as the requisite infrastructure and manpower for the same are not in place, as yet.
This development bring out to the fore the lurking fear that the proposal to centralize drug licensing as a part of the proposed law, very unfortunately, may eventually get quite diluted because of vested interests.
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.