New Delhi: A proposal by the department of pharmaceuticals (DoP) to build multiple bulk drug parks in order to reduce dependence on raw material imports has received in-principle approval from the department of expenditure.

“The availability of funds is going to be taken up with the finance ministry now," said an official, requesting anonymity.

Bulk drugs, also known as active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), are used as raw materials by the pharmaceuticals industry. Close to 80% of India’s requirement is met through imports, a major chunk of it from China. APIs are the ingredients that produce the intended therapeutic effect on a patient.

The government plans to establish three bulk drugs and three medical devices parks through the public-private partnership (PPP) mode. These parks would require a combined investment of about Rs60,000 crore, chemicals and fertilizers minister Ananth Kumar said in June.

Following this announcement, Kumar said the government had decided against its original bulk drug policy. The latter—a dedicated bulk drug policy to encourage domestic manufacturing—had been in the offing for much longer, with 2015 having been declared as the “Year of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients" by Kumar earlier.

“Instead, states will have to come up with ‘bulk drug parks’ which will help boost manufacturing of bulk drugs," Ananth Kumar said in August.

The Andhra Pradesh government has stated that it plans to set up a bulk drug park in Vishakhapatnam and would require funding assistance from the centre.

Since the government announced its intent of setting up bulk drug parks, it has sent out feelers to interested private parties who are keen to participate in the PPP projects.

“The response has varied from lukewarm to negligible. It may be difficult to evince adequate interest from private players without a reasonable policy in shape," stated an official from the Central Drug Standard Control Organization.

With imports of drug ingredients and intermediates from China at Rs13,853 crore in 2015-16, the National Security Adviser had warned the government against over-dependence on the neighbouring country.

A Cabinet note had also been floated for a bulk drug policy based on the Katoch committee’s recommendations, which government officials had said would provide the blueprint for a policy proposal, which now apparently stands in limbo.

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