New Delhi: India’s highest advisory body on drugs will discuss a mechanism to end the menace of fake medicines at a meeting on 16 May.
According to the proposal to be discussed at the Drug Technical Advisory Board meeting, consumers will be able to check whether the medicines that they have purchased are genuine by texting a unique code to be printed on the medicine’s package to a number, said two people aware of the matter, both of whom requested anonymity.
The government plans to initially build a data bank of 300 medicine brands and their consumption pattern in various parts of the country.
Drug companies will then be asked to print a unique 14-digit alphanumeric code on the package of the drug. Consumers buying the medicine can then inquire via a text message whether the code—and therefore the medicine—is genuine or not, the people said.
“The unique identification code will help consumers avoid buying fake products. The idea is that within seconds, the person should receive a reply indicating whether the drug is legitimate,” said a person with direct knowledge of the matter.
Fake medicines lead to drug resistance in humans and cause a significant number of deaths, according to public health experts.
A government survey conducted between 2014 and 2016 to check the proportion of substandard drugs in India had found 3.16% of the samples it tested to be substandard, while 0.02% were spurious.
Significantly, even samples from big drug makers were found to be not of standard quality during the survey carried out through the National Institute of Biologicals, according to regulator Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation.
“We must have a robust tracing and tracking mechanism ...with emphasis on transparency and accountability,” said Bejon Misra, founder of Partnership for Safe Medicines India. “Quality and safety should be paramount and people indulging in the sale of spurious medicines should not be spared.”
IMS Health Information and Consulting Services India Pvt. Ltd will assist the government in gathering the drug-related data.
According to a report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2017, approximately 10.5% of all medicines in low- and middle-income countries including India are substandard or fake.
India expects to bring down the proportion of substandard drugs in the country to 2% over the next three years, with the aim of matching global standards.
The country’s drug regulator has also been engaged in risk-based inspections of manufacturing plants as part of its efforts to achieve this goal.