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Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940: Recommendations for a revamp

The existing Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940 was formed during the pre-independence era. Since then, amendments have been made to the D&C Act and Rules 1940 and 1945. However, considering the ever-evolving regulatory requirements, industry stakeholders feel that there is a need to reframe the Drugs and Cosmetics Act to make it more well-defined and align it with global regulatory requirements. They believe that it will also help in streamlining drug regulatory affairs in India

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 Draft Rules to substitute existing Schedule M to bring in GMP on par with international standards

SW Deshpande, Former Joint Commissioner, FDA Maharashtra and Advocate Founder, PHARMALEX

In my opinion, the Drugs and Cosmetics Act is well-drafted and has been amended from time to time with major changes in 1982 and 2008. Rules have a number of amendments and Good Manufacturing Practices are upgraded by amending Schedule M and Medical Devices Rules 2017.

New Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules 2019 have been incorporated. Draft Rules will substitute existing Schedule M to bring in Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) on par with international standards. Major industry stakeholders want many changes in the draft rules as it is apprehended that it will require huge investment leading to an increase in prices. Medium and small scale industry is likely to be affected most. It has become a fashion to criticise Acts enacted in the pre-independence era.

There is a need for a revised drug classification system

Dr Varun Gupta, Convenor, Digital Health Platforms

India has made big strides on the World Bank’s ease of doing business index and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of minimum government and maximum governance. It is commendable but there is an urgent requirement to remove/amend “obsolete” regulations that have outlived their utility and hamper governance by creating avoidable confusion. There are many sections in the Drugs & Cosmetics Act and Rules 1940 & 1945 which needs to be identified on priority. One of them is the current classification of medicines.

Current classification of medicines in India under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act into Schedule G, H, H1, X is outdated, evolved through patchwork over the years and needs to be thoroughly updated. The primary aim of the scheduling system is to ensure appropriate access to medicines while balancing public health and safety. There is a need for a revised drug classification system that is more comprehensive in coverage and eliminates the overlaps between classes and addresses implementation challenges in the diverse and fragmented ecosystem in India.

Accessibility, affordability and lack of transparency are the major challenges in the sector of sale of medicines. These barriers could be effectively overcome by adopting technology, specifically the internet, into the healthcare system. In addition, it provides tracking and traceability of medicines, abuse prevention, addressing consumption of drugs without prescription, tax loss and value-added services for consumer empowerment in healthcare. Moreover, it will foster entrepreneurship, innovation, attract foreign direct investment and create jobs. These are all key areas of national development.

The CDSCO should enforce all drug-related laws throughout the country

The following areas may be considered before redrafting the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Rules.

Ashokswamy Heroor, President, Karnataka State Registered Pharmacists Organisation
  • Enforcement of the act

Present scenario: Partly enforced by the Central Government and partly by State Governments.
Result: Uneven enforcement of the rules by the States. The industry grows in some encouraging States only. Clandestine activities in some States with the connivance of officers affect the entire nation.
Suggestion: The CDSCO should enforce all drug-related laws throughout the country.

  • Manufacturing Licensing Policy

Present scenario: Loan licences, third party arrangements, manufacturing and marketing arrangements, lending of trade names etc., are being resorted to.
Result: Actual manufacturer suffers in the sales. Sub-standard, not of standard quality, cheap products, unhygienic preparations flood the market. The government is cheated of taxes by the tricks played by large manufacturers. Helps them in money laundering business and to amass black money.
Suggestions: All such unprincipled practices should be banned. Natural justice should be brought back.

  • Cold Chain

Present scenario: Only some reputed firms maintain cold chains in distribution.
Suggestions: Even small scale manufacturers and loan licensees should follow it strictly.

  • Competent Technical Staff

Present scenario: All science graduates are eligible to become CTS.
Results: Professional pharmacy graduates are unemployed. Quality cannot be built into drugs.
Suggestion: Only pharmacy graduates registered in the pharmacy council, should become CTS for manufacturing and testing. 18-months experience also should be waived. D.Pharm should be approved for quality control CTS as they are more technical than BScs.

Any change should be phased out over a span of a few years while harmonising ICH framework

Manikandan Ramalingam, VP- R&D, Granules India