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Ramesh Shankar
Wednesday, July 21, 2021, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

A separate central ministry exclusively for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry has been a long pending demand which the successive governments at the Centre have been paying little heed to. Ever since the present government came to power at Centre in 2014, there have been renewed talks of a separate ministry for pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The then Union Minister for Chemicals & Fertilizers Ananth Kumar himself had indicated on more than one occasion that the Central government is seriously considering to form a dedicated ministry for pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The minister had indicated about the move first in 2015 and then reiterated the same in 2017 and the government held discussions with different stakeholders. The matter was also brought to the notice of the Prime Minister’s Office and the PMO is reported to have convinced of such a need in the context of huge potential for growth in these two industry segments in the coming years. There can be no two opinions about the growth potential of pharmaceutical and medical devices industries in the country. From a mere Rs.10 crore in 1948 to more than Rs. 2 lakh crore at present, the Indian pharmaceutical industry has indeed come a long way to adorn the epithet of  'the pharmacy of the world', exporting affordable quality medicines to more than 200 countries in the world, including the developed countries like the US and Europe. Of course, it is a great feat for a sector which was dominated by the multinational drug companies until 1970's. More importantly, the leapfrog jump of the Indian pharmaceutical industry, and of late that of the medical devices industry, is continuing as the industry since then did not look back and, in fact, it is literally cruising to capture new heights.

So, for the growth of these sectors to its full potential, an exclusive ministry is the need of the hour. The Covid-19 pandemic has once again brought the Indian pharmaceutical and medical devices industries into limelight and has underscored the need to have an exclusive ministry for these two sectors to create an appropriate regulatory environment for the growth of these sectors. Presently, both these sectors are regulated by different ministries and agencies. While all the administrative and pricing related policies are regulated by the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, the issues related to quality of the drugs produced and marketed in the country are regulated by the Union Health Ministry. Policies related to investment and IPR as well as that of exports are regulated by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. This multiple regulatory mechanism very often poses hurdles to the growth of these sectors to its full potential. This was very much evident during the last some months ever since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the entire length and breadth of the world and all the nations were looking to India for medicines. While all these nations were asking India for medicines such as hydroxylchloroquine, azithromycin, paracetamol, etc as well as medical devices including PPEs to contain this highly infectious disease which has taken a toll of more than 1.5 million precious lives across the world, India was found fumbling to export these medicines. Things would have been different had there been a separate ministry for the pharma and medical devices industry. A lot of time has already been wasted in bureaucratic red-tapism. Now, the government should shed its lethargic attitude towards such a serious issue and should take some proactive actions to form an exclusive central ministry for pharmaceuticals and medical devices.


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