India’s productive drugs regulator

A recent speech made by the union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad in Mumbai at the launch of the drugs regulatory authority CDSCO’s zonal office in the city pointed to something that we don’t usually associate with government –  productivity!

According to this speech, in the year 2009 CDSCO has received and processed an eye-popping 21,000 applications up from 16,000 in 2008.  Now a little earlier in his speech, the minister observed that “the major constraint of shortage of manpower in the regulatory authority has been resolved and the sanctioned strength of the CDSCO has been raised from 111 to 327” with further plans to strengthen. More than 300 professionals have been engaged in a contractual capacity in order to meet the immediate shortage of manpower he says.  So the CDSCO has been valiantly approving applications even in the face of shortage of manpower.

Bravo. But what would be even more heartening is if one saw this zeal extended to issues other than application processing alone.  Like pharmacovigilance, for instance, which should be de rigeur in every country that has access to some form of medicine.  Woefully, in spite of being the 4th largest pharma market in volume terms in the world – a fact we love to tom-tom and which also found mention in the minister’s speech-  India doesn’t have an adverse drug reaction monitoring system that we can thump our chests and be equally – if not more – proud of.

The minister promises in his speech that an upscaled National Pharmacovigilance Program will be initiated this year.  The cynic in me says ‘hogwash’ the optimist says ‘fantastic, let’s get cracking!’  I know which of the two is probably right but guess what? I’m not telling.  Besides, does anybody really care anymore.. In the meantime, here’s to pill-popping!


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