Multinational pharmaceutical companies are crying foul over the illegal import of innovator drugs worth crores of rupees into the Indian market from neighbouring countries and sold by pharmacies, distributors and websites.
The Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI), which represents Abbott, Pfizer, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, GSK, Bayer, Merck and Sanofi, among others, claims the rampant and unchecked import of innovator drugs was adversely affecting the revenue of India as well as the companies.
“We have noticed that the innovator drugs, mostly oncology (cancer) drugs, were being illegally imported into India through neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka,” Kanchana TK, director general of OPPI, said in Hyderabad recently. However, it’s not clear if these drugs were originally produced for domestic consumption in those countries and were crossing the borders, she said.
“We are also not sure of the quality of these drugs, which are mimicking the brand names of innovator pharmaceutical giants,” she said, adding that OPPI is concerned about the safety of patients in India using sub-standard quality drugs illegally brought into India.
While pointing out that the import of innovator drugs without valid licences was prohibited and punishable under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940, she said the consumption of sub-standard drugs could lead to subtherapeutic dosages and drug resistance, which is a major health concern. OPPI is collating data on the illegal marketing of innovator drugs in India and will appeal to the health ministry and regulators shortly, she said.
Some least developed countries including Bangladesh are allowed to produce patented drugs of innovator companies for domestic consumption. The drugs being illegally imported into India include oncology drug Crizoncent, manufactured by Incepta Pharmaceuticals of Bangladesh and Afanix 40, an oncology drug produced by Beacon Pharmaceuticals of Bangladesh, she said.
Baricinix 2, also made by Beacon Pharmaceuticals, was found in India even before it was launched by Eli Lilly, which developed it, said Kanchana. Breast cancer drug Lucilap, claiming Sri Lanka-based Lucius Pharmaceuticals as its manufacturer, was offered on some websites.“
As per market information, some of these companies are not even registered in their respective countries. One such example is Lucius Pharmaceuticals that is said to be not a registered manufacturer in Sri Lanka,” said Kanchana.
The Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India claims import of innovator drugs was affecting the revenue of India as well as the companies.