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Ensuring sustainable development

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Dr Arun Garg, General Secretary – IPGA, Prof & Dean, School of Medical & Allied Sciences, KR Mangalam University, Gurgaon speaks on SDGs for pharma

Dr Arun Garg

The awareness of sustainability as a main issue of pharma companies’ performance has considerably grown over the last year in healthcare. Sustainability is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” It has four fundamental pillars: environmental protection, economic growth, social equity and healthcare promotion.

This so-called “triple bottom line” has become the frame of reference for further discussions about sustainability. Especially the sustainability approach of pharma companies often aims at ensuring a balance of their economic, ecological, social and healthcare ranges of responsibility.

The adoption of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) gives governments and those involved in the health community a chance to embrace a vision as fundamental as the Declaration of Human Rights when it was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. There is a sustainable development priority, but there is rocket science: tackling the cycle of poverty and poor health is complex and something no single appendage of society can do alone. It involves more than reducing the price of medicine. It requires partnership along the entire health value chain – from researching neglected diseases and training personnel, to reorienting policy choices and the allocation of resources at global, national and local levels. The experience of the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development (NFSD) shows that, even if drugs are given for free (as in the case of the anti-leprosy multi-drug therapy by Novartis), effective use cannot be guaranteed without considerable additional efforts in social marketing, product advocacy and securing patients’ acceptance and compliance – together with the vital contribution of NGOs. To suggest that access to medicines is just a matter of high prices and patents is to oversimplify.

The Jan Aushadi Scheme is not fulfilling the objectives of providing cheap medicines to the citizens of India, as the scheme is restricted to only some places in Delhi and also in India. As per my opinion, the Government of India should have strengthened the already existing public health care system by improving the health care at primary health care, district hospitals and other government hospitals in big cities where free drugs are dispensed to patients.

Recently, Indian Pharmacy Graduates’ Association has organised the 30th Annual Conference in Delhi on the theme ‘Role of Pharmacist in Digital Era’, where several speakers gave their views on online pharmacy and digitalisation of pharmacy services.

In my opinion, online pharmacy can benefit the quality use of drugs in patients by providing information online. On the other hand, it needs to be regulated strictly as per our Drug & Cosmetic Act, which means strengthening of FDA system in India, as has been witnessed in Maharashtra from the past few years.

Dr GN Singh, DCG(I) has called on the pharma industry to take advantage of the opportunities being created by the Government through the ‘Make in India’ scheme , by investing in making medical devices indigenously.

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