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Pharma policy faces health ministry hurdle

Pharma policy faces health ministry hurdle
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First Published: Wed, Apr 30 2008. 10 33 PM IST
Updated: Wed, Apr 30 2008. 10 34 PM IST
New Delhi: A group of cabinet ministers, or GoM, deliberating the national pharmaceutical policy, ended its Wednesday meeting inconclusively with the health ministry objecting to some provisions in the policy draft that could overlap with its functional area.
The seven-member GoM, headed by Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, deferred a decision on the policy and asked the secretaries of the two ministries—health and family welfare, and chemicals and fertilizers—to sort out those overlapping recommendations.
“The health ministry has a different opinion on whatever proposals (in the pharmaceutical policy) we have received. The ministry feels that certain provisions in this policy will lead to a duplication of effort,” Pawar told reporters after the meeting. “I have asked the two secretaries to sit together and discuss these provisions.”
It was not clear why the health ministry voiced its objections only at the fourth meeting of the GoM. The cabinet had discussed the draft policy as early as in January 2007.
Health secretary Naresh Dayal did not attend Wednesday’s meeting, but senior officials from the chemicals ministry, who did not wish to be identified, said the pharma policy’s provisions on buying drugs, health insurance, cancer assistance fund, and other schemes for poor families were issues that the health ministry felt would overlap with government schemes that it runs. Currently, the chemicals ministry oversees the critical function of price control while the health ministry is responsible for drug quality.
A senior government official told Mint that the GoM was to discuss on Wednesday a proposal from the cabinet secretariat for a unified drug authority that would combine these two roles, and also take on functions such as drug approvals currently vested with the health administration.
The proposed authority would contradict plans for the creation of a new department of pharmaceuticals by the chemicals ministry, and a health ministry proposal to set up what is called a Central Drug Authority in a draft legislation before Parliament.
The ministries of science and technology, and health have already locked horns over regulating the medical devices sector, with both proposing separate legislation and regulators.
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First Published: Wed, Apr 30 2008. 10 33 PM IST