Govt calls meet to mull reforms for drug regulation amid covid


The health ministry will hold a meeting on Friday of top government officials as well as two representatives from the pharmaceutical industry to discuss reforms for the drug regulatory system amid the global search to expedite a cure for covid, four sources in the know told Mint.

The meeting comes in the backdrop of the covid-19 spreading in various major states in India, and pharmaceutical companies scampering to find a drug to repurpose existing drugs like the broad spectrum antiviral favirpiravir and the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine towards treatment of the fatal respiratory disease.

The meeting of the committee will be attended by representatives of India’s apex drug regulator Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Department of Biotechnology.

Apart from the government officials, Cadila Healthcare chairman Pankaj Patel and Serum Institute of India chief executive officer Adar Poonawala have also been invited to the meeting, according to two of the sources.

The meeting will be chaired by the health ministry’s officer on special duty Rajesh Bhushan, who is also tipped to be the health secretary when incumbent Preeti Sudan retires.

The health ministry’s meeting comes on the back of prime minister Narendra Modi expressing concern in a meeting earlier this month that the India’s regulatory system for new drugs and vaccines needed to be faster, while having the highest quality and ethical standards.

To be sure, calls for reform of the drug regulatory system are not new. Meetings on changes to the drug regulatory system have been held before with both DoP and Health ministry, with an overhaul of the law also being worked on multiple times.

However, this time the government appears to be serious on making changes to the regime following the pandemic, an industry official said, on condition of anonymity.

“The new secretary is about to take over, and in the present scenario, especially after covid, there have to be changes to the regulatory system,” the industry official said.



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