The hidden blessing – lessons from headache pills
Writer – Revathi Sreekumar
Ever wondered why those pills you take don’t make the headache go away? Here’s a little secret – they were probably not meant to ease the pain at all. I work for a diagnostic company, so after three years of helping pharmaceutical and food companies set up quality procedures in their manufacturing line to make their products ‘safe’, I bet I can give you something to think about the next time you visit your local pharmacy.
With a ‘boom’ in the biotech industry in the last decade, a lot of Indian pharmaceutical companies are both exporting and selling their products within India. And needless to say, all the developed countries who import products made here enforce high quality standards in their manufacturing facilities; they conduct tests, send the FDA officials for a run through, and sometimes even make them visit manufacturing units by surprise. The math isn’t hard to work out – Labour is inexpensive here in India and since profit margins are high in the European and US markets, companies take the trouble and invest a little extra time and money. But this is not the same when Indian pharmaceuticals market their products in India.
What is really disappointing is that when these companies supply to other companies within India, they always invest less on quality. There is no sugar coated way to say this but the truth is, what people like you and I are left with are sub-standard products because our regulatory systems are not in place. This is backed up by a lack of political will, limited resources and weak consumer pressure. The government offers subsidised land to help these companies improve but hardly anyone takes the initiative to improve the quality of medicine here in India.
In one of the educational programs that we conducted last month, on improving the quality of manufacturing for India, I was asked whether I eat street food. Well, if we can eat pani poori from a street vendor, we can stomach anything right? But unfortunately in the west, they don’t have that advantage. So for a little positivity, you are better off buying your Paracetamols from New York the next time you visit. Don’t worry – they will be made in India.