New Delhi: The Supreme Court (SC) has issued a notice to the Centre over the closure of the three public sector units (PSUs) that manufacture essential vaccines like DPT, measles, polio and BCG after a petition was filed last month.
Production at the units in question - Central Research Institute, Kasauli, Pasteur Institute of India (PII), Coonoor and BCG Vaccines Lab, Chennai - was suspended in 2008 due to their failure to comply with the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) as under the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 as well as the GMP laid down by the World Health Organisation.
Though there have been reports that the Ministry of Health had initially decided to close down the three vaccine units and then reversed this decision, in an earlier conversation with Mint, Drug controller general of India had said that ”there was never any question of closing down the units.
However, their production had been suspended and the government would reopen once it was able to upgrade the facilities and decide on the kind of vaccines to be produced there.”
But the PIL filed in the SC argues that ”the government also had the option of suspending only exports till the PSUs became GMP compliant and meet the huge indigenous demand rather than suspending production altogether, especially since there was no complaint on the product quality of the vaccines produced in those PSUs”.
In a reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on 18 February, union minister of health and family welfare, Anbumani Ramadoss said ”The government has not taken any decision to close down the three public sector vaccine manufacturing units.”
His answer also states that an expert committee constituted in April 2008 to study these units has submitted its report. However, these recommendations, reviewed by Mint, do not cover the production of the essential vaccines being produced earlier.