New Delhi: The much-awaited bulk drug manufacturing policy that will help India reduce its dependence on imports from China has received a push from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and is likely to be out in 100 days.

The policy, which is in the final stages of discussion, will be based on the recommendations made by a committee under former secretary (health research) V.M. Katoch. Bulk drugs or Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) are the active raw materials used in a drug that gives it the therapeutic effect. India gets more than 75% of its bulk drug from China.

“We will implement the Katoch committee report within 100 days time. If necessary, we will go to Cabinet in this regard," said Ananth Kumar, Union minister for chemicals and fertilizers, on the sidelines of a PHD Chamber of Commerce event in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Pharmaceutical secretary V.K. Subburaj said that the PMO’s intervention has helped fasttrack the work on the draft policy. “We already had three meetings with the PMO. In a meeting next week, the policy is likely to be finalized," he said.

The Katoch panel had suggested additional focus on public sector undertakings, by starting manufacturing of essential critical drugs, like penicillin and paracetamol. It also suggested tax-free status and cluster development for revival of the industry.

“We had a meeting with the existing API manufacturers and for them reduction of interest rates is a major issue. The government is considering this concern," Subburaj said. According to him, in China, the interest rate on loans is just 5%, while here it is above 12%. He added that the government is also coming up with six bulk drug parks across the country.

Out of the five pharma sector PSUs—Karnataka Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals Ltd (KAPL), Rajasthan Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Ltd (RDPL), Hindustan Antibiotics Ltd (HAL), Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Ltd (BCPL) and Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Ltd (IDPL)—HAL, BCPL and IDPL have been declared sick by the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR).

The government is likely to form a separate ministry for pharmaceuticals and medical services in a year’s time. “I assure you in the next one year there will be a separate entity as pharma and medical devices ministry," Ananth Kumar said. Currently both of them come under the ministry of chemicals and fertilisers.

The minister added that he will lead a delegation of companies to the ministry of finance before the budget session to discuss the issue of so called inverted duty structure in which import duty on finished product is lower than that on the raw material, thereby discouraging domestic value addition.

The ministry is also in the process of revising the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) 2011. “It is the health ministry’s mandate to make NLEM list and we have also given our points. Blood pressure, cardiac, cancer, HIV/AIDS medicines should be added to the list," he added.

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