The Madras High Court's Justice N Kirubakaran has said that India has emerged as a pioneer in pharmaceuticals. Yet, for the basic ingredients of medicine making, it is heavily dependent on imports from China. This dependency handicaps us. It also makes our patients vulnerable if tensions escalate between the two countries. He also ordered formation of a 5-member committee to help bring foreign exchange for the country and to ensure India's self-reliance when it comes to cancer drugs.
In his 226-page order Justice Kirubakaran on a couple of writ petitions moved by Chennai-based Vinkem Labs, directed the constitution of a committee comprising joint secretary-level officers from the Union Ministries of Pharmaceuticals and Finance in order to facilitate all necessary requirements, including financial needs, of the petitioner firm in carrying out its research on cancer cure.
Vinkem petitions have raised grievance over the lack of financial support from government, various banks and others, in carrying out generic research, said Justice Kirubakaran.
"We have already lost very capable brains to other countries by brain drain... it is time to retain the experts/scientists like petitioner by giving required support, more importantly trained support," he said.
In his order, he pointed out how cheap imported Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs), primarily from China, had turned India from being a pioneer in generics and pharmacy to the world to a mere formulations’ hub.
Citing larger concerns of public health the High Court proceeded to issue directions so that Vinkem Labs may become a global player. The court said that this was intended to achieve twin goals of bringing in foreign exchange for the country and to ensure India's self-reliance when it comes to cancer drugs.
“Our country that had once built 99.7 per cent self-reliance in APIs went on to import over 90 per cent of its API requirements from China. The economic advantage of importing APIs has led India to lose its scientific edge and self-reliance in APIs,” the judge said.
The economic advantage of importing APIs has led India to lose its scientific edge and self-reliance in APIs and India now thrives as a mere finished dosage hub, that is, a country that imports its API requirements and bundles them into finished dosages. On account of this abdication of domestic segment, the patients of our country have to face issues such as proliferation of sub-standard drugs, unavailability of life saving drugs etc., At one stage, even the National Security Advisor (NSA) has cautioned the government of the danger to our national security on account of this excess import dependence from a single nation, the Judge said in the order.
"Gradually, on account of import of API requirements at cheap costs, our country has declined to a mere formulations hub," said the Judge, adding that “our country is not investing much in research and researchers are not encouraged.”