Counterfeit drugs are a public health menace. Not only it costs the pharma industry billions, it puts the patients at a serious risk. Globally, more than a million people die every year after consuming counterfeit medicines. India, unfortunately has a dubious distinction of being a major player in counterfeit pharmaceutical manufacturing. Astonishingly, 35% of all fake drugs sold globally are exported from the subcontinent. A nationwide survey conducted in 2014-16 showed that around 3% medicines marketed in India were substandard, while around 0.023% were either spurious or counterfeit. It is estimated that spurious and substandard drugs is a Rs 15,000 crore racket growing at an alarming rate of 25% every year. According to WHO, 1 in 10 medicinal products available in low and middle income countries is either fake or substandard.

Regulators are struggling to find an effective way to track the origin of fake drugs. Inadequate regulations, multiple entry points, shortage of drug inspectors, lack of accredited labs, existence of loopholes in drug distribution system, lack of awareness among consumers and lack of law enforcement add to the existing problem. Earlier this year, NITI Aayog, suggested the use of blockchain technology whereby unique identification codes or numbers will be allocated for every single medicine which can then be tracked through the entire supply chain. The idea was to create a more visible and a transparent system to includes all stakeholders - API suppliers, vendors, distributors. Product is labelled with serial numbers which are scanned at each entry / exit point along its journey from factory to end user.

To bring transparency, traceability and integrity to the global drug supply chain, Government of India should look at like these measures more closely to get a real-time visibility into all drugs produced and exported from the country. The Drugs Technical Advisory Board approved a proposal for a “trace and track” mechanism during a meeting held in May 2018.

Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Abhiyaan was launched in September 2018 and is perhaps supposedly the world’s largest government funded healthcare scheme in terms of coverage and aims to provide healthcare facilities to over 10 crore families covering urban and rural poor. A positive first step which is welcomed, but many health experts believe the road to India’s Universal Health Coverage (UHC) will not be straightforward or easy. There is an immediate need to invest in public health expenditure and revamp the primary health infrastructure.

Cancer kills millions of people every year and still remains one of humanity’s greatest health challenges. The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was jointly awarded to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation. Therapies based on this discovery proved to be strikingly effective in the fight against cancer...



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