Express Pharma

Developing a strong authentication eco-system: A priority

On the eve of Union Budget 2021, Nakul Pasricha, President of ASPA highlights that along with improving the existing healthcare systems, it is also crucial to eliminate risk of illicit trade by improving security of the entire supply chain and increasing public finance towards plugging the gaps in these areas 

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Post COVID-19 crisis, most of the countries and economies are facing dual challenges. While on one hand there is a challenge to improve the existing healthcare systems, they also need to eliminate the risk of illicit trade as well as figuring out ways to identify increasing public finance, which has been under considerable strain.

In the Indian scenario, our health budget is the fourth lowest in the world and we ranked 155th (out of 158 countries considered in the survey) on the health spending index, however, the situations have changed significantly in the last few years. In the last months, we have made tremendous progress in becoming self-reliant on the production of PPE kits and other products. According to sources, with this fiscal year, the Government of India is likely to unveil a four-year health budget plan to move India’s healthcare spend to four per cent of GDP. We should continue this momentum not only for medicine production but also for ensuring their safety and authenticity. Developing a strong authentication eco-system can benefit India in many ways. 

1. Strengthening current procurement and supply chain systems: The Government of India has announced a Rs 69,000 crore outlay for the health sector that is inclusive of Rs 6400 crore for Prime Minister Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) in Union Budget 2020-21. In the Health Sector, there is an instant need to secure and strengthen the current supply chain to reduce the circulation of counterfeit and substandard medicines and medical equipment. Currently, there are more than 3,600 Jan Aushadhi stores across the country. It is vital that any plans to scale up the number of stores also ensure security and streamlining of the entire supply chain. It will not only ensure the delivery of quality medicines to the patients but will also help build confidence in the patients’ minds regarding the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Pariyojana Kendra (PMBJP). There is no way to track products beyond the Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) warehouse up to the Jan Aushadhi Kendras (JAKs), which makes the system vulnerable to spurious and substandard medicines sneaking in. There is a need to link good health with good economics and it cannot be achieved without investing in strong authentication and traceability measures at all important stakeholders’ points. One of the important aspects of good healthcare systems is providing safe, quality, and affordable medicines to the people of India. 

2. Minimising risk of illicit business: According to WHO an estimated 1 in 10 medical products circulating in low and middle-income countries is either substandard or falsified. COVID represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for counterfeiters as people will be willing to pay exorbitant amounts to get vaccinated. So even if just one crore people pay an average of Rs. 3000 each for two doses of the vaccine through illicit channels, that is Rs 6,000 crores worth of illicit business and tremendous risk to people’s lives. Any chan