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India vigilant, will never compromise on quality of medicines: Mandaviya

Mansukh Mandaviya said that there is 'zero tolerance' for spurious medicines and that 71 companies have been served with show-cause notices

Mansukh Mandaviya

BS Web Team New Delhi

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Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Tuesday said that India will never bargain on the quality of medicines and that the authorities are always vigilant to prevent any fatalities caused by spurious drugs.

The minister's remark came as the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the inclusion of seven Indian-made products in its investigation into alleged deaths linked to contaminated cough syrups.

As part of its investigation, the WHO identified a total of 20 toxic medicines, the use of which is said to have resulted in over 200 deaths worldwide. The rest of the medicines belonged to Indonesia, WHO officials told NDTV.

The minister stated that there is 'zero tolerance' for spurious medicines and that 71 companies have been served with show-cause notices, and 18 linked shops have been ordered to close.

"We have conducted risk-based analysis at more than 125 companies and our squads have visited their facilities. Of these, 71 companies have been served show-cause notices and 18 have been given closure notices,” he told PTI.

"We are the pharmacy of the world, and we want to assure everyone that we are the 'quality pharmacy of the world'," the minister added.

The controversy surrounding Indian-made cough syrup arose last year after it was allegedly linked to a number of child deaths in Gambia and Uzbekistan.

India is the world's largest supplier of generic drugs. It supplies roughly half of the world's demand for various vaccines. India's cough syrup export value increased to $17.6 billion in 2022-23, up from $17 billion the previous year, 2021-22.

Following reports of alleged cough syrup-related deaths in Uzbekistan, the WHO labeled two Indian-made cough syrups for children as "substandard medical products" in January. Both syrups were produced by Noida-based Marion Biotech.

Mandaviya said that on the questions that are raised about Indian medicines, facts must be factored in. “…in Gambia, they said 49 children have died…we wrote to them asking what the facts are. No one got back to us with the facts,” the health minister said.

"We checked the samples of one company. We tried to find out the cause of death, and we found that the child had diarrhoea. If a child had diarrhoea, who recommended cough syrup for that child?" he questioned.

As of June 1, a new regulation in India requires cough syrup exporters to conduct tests before exporting their products.

According to a notification issued last month by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), exporters must provide a certificate of analysis issued by a government laboratory for cough syrups before they can be exported.

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First Published: Jun 20 2023 | 5:22 PM IST

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