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Spurious drugs: reward for whistle blowers planned

Sujay Mehdudia

Rein in erring private hospitals and doctors: Brinda Karat

NEW DELHI: Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Wednesday expressed serious concern over the growing menace of spurious drugs and pointed out that the government had come out with a new policy to reward “whistle blowers” providing information on manufacture of such drugs.

Mr. Azad told the Rajya Sabha that the law would be amended suitably to effectively deal with the menace.

“The government plans to bring the Drugs and Cosmetics (Amendment) Bill for creating a Central Drug Authority. This will pave the way for making the regulatory mechanism robust,” he said.

Replying to a discussion initiated by Brinda Karat (CPI–M), on the working of his Ministry, he said a “whistle blower” scheme, under which anyone who provided information about the manufacture of spurious drugs would be given rewards ranging from Rs. 2 to 20 lakh, was on the anvil.

“We expect lot of people, including labourers working in such units, to come forward to provide information without disclosing their identity.”

The government proposed to set up special courts for speedy trials of those facing charges of spurious drug manufacture.

Noting that the law provided for a maximum punishment of life imprisonment for the offence and a fine of Rs. 10 lakh, he said: “Left to me, I am for capital punishment. The menace could be checked even if life imprisonment [was awarded] to one or two such manufacturers.”

On organ transplants, he said the government would bring in a comprehensive Bill in the near future.

Initiating the discussion on Tuesday evening, Ms. Karat said: “Private sector hospitals are exploiting vulnerable sections of the society as the government has failed to provide good health services. Moreover, the government has failed to formulate any regulatory mechanism or fix responsibility on erring hospitals and doctors. Strict monitoring of [the] private health sector is required to safeguard the interests of poor people.”

Ms. Karat demanded the immediate reopening of three government-owned vaccine production units and sought more funds for them so that they could meet the quality standards. “I also demand an inquiry into why they were closed down, who was responsible for the closure and who is accountable for lakhs of our children being deprived of immunisation.”

While demanding streamlining of the organ donation mechanism, she suggested that all MPs take a pledge to donate their organs. It should be turned into a national movement so that the general public could be made aware of the need and necessity to donate organs.

Ms. Karat pointed to the declining budgetary allocation for the health sector and asked the government to strengthen the departments of traditional systems of medicines and stop treating patients as guinea pigs for clinical trials.

The CPI(M) leader demanded more autonomy for AIIMS-like institutions and criticised the functioning of the Drug Control Authority. She dubbed the anti-pregnancy ‘i-pill’ as dubious and dangerous. She asked the government to give at least minimum wages for the rural health workers.

Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley, the former Union Health Minister and BJP MP, C.P. Thakur, Syed A. Pasha (CPI), DMK’s Vasanthi Stanley, R.C. Khuntia, Maya Singh (BJP), and A. Elavarasan (AIADMK) also took part in the debate.

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