The federal government is proposing to reward whistleblowers who could provide credible information on spurious drugs.
India's Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Wednesday announced a new policy to reward "whistle blowers" providing information on manufacture of such drugs.
Replying to a discussion initiated by Brinda Karat (CPI-M), on the working of his Ministry, he said a "whistle blower" scheme, under which anyone who provided information about the manufacture of spurious drugs would be given rewards ranging from Rs. 2 to 20 lakh, was on the anvil.
"We expect lot of people, including labourers working in such units, to come forward to provide information without disclosing their identity."
The reward will be given only when there confirmation of the seizure of spurious drugs, cosmetics and medical devices by the designated officers of Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO).
According to the proposal, once fake drugs are seized, the government will engage senior advocates who have sufficient experience of such cases to help punish the guilty.
To ensure speedy trials, these cases will be filed before designated special courts set up for the purpose of drugs related issues, as per the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. Drug Controller General of India will be the nodal officer who will oversee functioning of the reward scheme.
According to DCGI, the size of India's pharmaceutical industry is Rs 85,000 crore, of which Rs 35000 crore worth pharma products are exported.
A countrywide survey is presently underway to assess the exact size of India's spurious/counterfeit drug industry. The study has already identified 61 popular drug brands from nine therapeutic categories that are being tested.
Health ministry, however, estimates that 5% of drugs sold in India are counterfeit while 0.3% are spurious. A counterfeit medicine is one that has no active ingredient or is an expired drug which has been relabelled and sold. It's different from a fake drug, which may not resemble the original in any way. India has also put in place labs in 23 states to test drugs while six central drug laboratories have been strengthened with equipment.
Expressing serious concern over the growing menace of spurious drugs, the minister told the Rajya Sabha that the law would be amended suitably to effectively deal with the menace.
Noting that the law provided for a maximum punishment of life imprisonment for the offence and a fine of Rs. 10 lakh, Mr.Azad said: "Left to me, I am for capital punishment. The menace could be checked if life imprisonment [was awarded] to one or two such manufacturers."
"The government plans to bring the Drugs and Cosmetics (Amendment) Bill for creating a Central Drug Authority. This will pave the way for making the regulatory mechanism robust," he added.