Express Pharma

An open letter: Concerns on electoral bonds and pharma industry

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Chandru Chawla, a pharma veteran writes an open letter to those CEOs of Pharmaceutical companies who have NOT purchased Electoral Bonds and have NOT made political donations through other means

Dear Pharma CEO who did NOT make political donations

Compliments from an ordinary soon-to-be senior citizen and a consumer of medicines. 

Recently, ordinary folks like me have been bombarded with this alleged scam being referred to as Chanda Do Dhanda Lo [1]. A media house has published a detailed list of pharmaceutical companies[2] who purchased Electoral Bonds at different times, along with approximate dates of when these companies faced regulatory action from various government agencies. The regulators have, in such cases, probed multiple issues like poor quality of certain medicines, Income Tax irregularities, money laundering. A media house estimates these donations to be close to Rs 800 crore[3] and more than half of what the government has allocated to support the industry. 

These reports seem to allege that the political donations were quid pro quo for terminating the regulatory actions, raids, audits, etc. 

Perhaps the most horrifying aspect of these reports is the possibility that our regulators allegedly “condoned drug quality irregularities” when the suspect companies made political donations to the regime. There are also allegations of allowing ineffective drugs to be authorized during the crippling pandemic. One can accept that certain batches of drugs do fail at times. And that is why a Quality Assurance function exists in drug companies to get to the root cause, apply remedial action and revamp processes to minimise and eliminate similar problems in future. And ensure, that such drugs don’t reach the market or when they do, they are urgently and comprehensively recalled. 

I presume, you took this ethical route to solve such issues in your companies. But why did your CEO counterparts in the companies on the list, feel the need to “pay their way out”, as is alleged? Moreover, it would be helpful to know whether they actually rectified the issues or simply “paid their way out” without addressing the root cause. And what happened to the alleged sub-standard medicines? Are they still in the market putting patients at risk? 

It would be interesting to know how such decisions were taken in these companies. Many of them happen to be listed on capital markets. Did their Boards of Directors and/or Audit committees approve these methods of dealing with regulatory compliance? Where does the buck stop?

What would you advise ordinary consumers like me? Should we continue to patronise medicines of such companies? Are we putting our lives at risk? Or should we switch to companies who are not in this list? Are our doctors and hospitals aware of these alleged malpractices? Would they factor this in while prescribing drugs? Surely, they have not normalised these alleged malpractices and would keep the interests of their patients at the core of their decisions. 

As many of the companies in this list are also exporters of medicines to US, Europe and around the world, I wonder if health authorities in these countries would take cognizance of these reports. Would USFDA, for example, be perturbed that large exporters to their country are taking “shortcuts to address quality issues in their home country”?  Would this harm our nation’s reputation as a supplier of reliable and high quality medicine? Could this result in harsher regulatory action from overseas agencies too in the short term? Should some of us, who are small investors in such companies, be worried? 

Would it be fair to expect CEOs of companies on this list, to come out in the open and clarify their position to their long term customers and investors? 

You would be wondering why I am writing to you. Given the alleged nature of this scam, I can hardly expect the government to respond on why these alleged malpractices were allowed to continue. But I do hope you will convey the concerns of ordinary citizens to your industry associations as well as to your CEO friends who are on the list. Can we expect some honest answers?

Finally, please accept my compliments for NOT being on that list. It would appear that your spine is intact and so is your integrity. 





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