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India, U.S. to set up Food and Drug Authority

Special Correspondent

It might take three years to set up the regulatory body and the process has begun: Anbumani

— Photo: S. R. Raghunathan

Michael O Leavitt, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (second from left) with Anbumani Ramadoss, Union Health Minister at a round-table in Chennai on Monday. Others looking on (from left) are Prathap C. Reddy, Chairman, CII National Health Care Committee, and David Hopper, U.S. Consul-General.

CHENNAI: India and the United States will set up committees that will work together on setting up a Food and Drug Authority-like regulatory body in India, the health leaders of both the nations said on Monday.

U.S. Secretary of Health Michael Leavitt said a team of officials would be formed to work with their Indian counterparts to provide technical support to establish quality standards on the basis of best available science.

Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said his government would also set up two working groups, one comprising bureaucrats, and the other a technical group comprising scientists who will, in six months’ time, identify key areas of quality concern in the food and drug industry in the country and work with U.S. experts to sort out issues.

The Indian technical team will be led by theformer chief of the Indian Council for Medical Research, N.K.Ganguly; the former Director-General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, R.A.Mashelkar; and the Drug Controller of India, said Dr. Ramadoss.

Further, Mr. Leavitt, expressing concerns over the safety of products, went on to propose a networking among nations to evolve a regulatory system that would be compatible. Both health leaders were speaking to press persons after addressing representatives of the healthcare industry at a round-table on “Indo-US Life Sciences, Health Sciences, and Public Health Collaborations,” organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

The key feature of his visit, Mr. Leavitt said, was to get the two governments to work together to ensure safety of products. Safety had become a very important issue for citizens of the U.S. and India, he added. In the U.S., which spends $2 trillion every year on imports, there have been controversies surrounding the safety of imported goods. It was becoming quite important to American consumers that the goods they receive from other countries are safe, healthy and effective.

The incidents were relatively isolated but became a “symbol of profound anxiety” that was manifest all over the world. Nations owed it to their citizens to assure them that the products produced, first within the country were safe. This had to be replicated worldwide, in a global market place. It was also important to anticipate the way in which problems could occur and address them. For this, collaboration was necessary not just between governments, but also within governments. Everyone in government must be involved in order to get the whole picture, Mr. Leavitt said.

Talking about the need to bridge the different systems between nations with the common goal of providing safe, effective products for citizens, the U.S. Health Secretary also stressed the importance of providing information to the customer about the safety of products, in order that they can judge for themselves.

“Our countries enjoy a fruitful, deep and abundant relationship. We have to work together to make it even stronger. The relationship between India and the U.S. is a powerful force, not just between our countries, but in the global market.” He said both countries must use the level of cooperation they share in the area of medicine and many other areas in a way to define new tools to make the global market place work.

Prathap Reddy, CII National Health Care Committee chairman, identified other areas of cooperation between the two countries: rising healthcare costs in the U.S. may be controlled by India’s talent pool of doctors, nurses and paramedics; providing for mutual recognition of degrees and specialised visa status; foreign direct investment by the U.S. in India could enable capacity building and upgrading standards of hospitals; and joint approach in services like clinical trials, research and outsourcing.

David Hopper, Consul General of the U.S. in South India; N. Kumar, past president, CII; and U.K. Ananthapadmanabhan, chairman, Healthcare sub-committee, CII Southern region, were present.

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