India’s pharmaceutical industry wants its government to sue us because of our “smear campaign” against it (Click here) and if today’s media in India are correct, India’s government is considering it (Click here).
This so-called campaign is actually an academic study which identifies uncomfortable data that some Indian companies, or their distributors, seem to be sending inferior medicines to Africa (see below for a point by point response to their unfair allegations). The reaction by Indian industry is disgust, dismay and anger, and absolutely no self-reflection.
Every time an independent entity, be it a think tank, academic institution, physician or US FDA, finds fault in either a product or process of India’s pharma industry, the reaction is the same, deny that there are any problems.
As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets with US political leaders he will not want to contemplate the problems of one of his leading export industries, but if he doesn’t improve oversight, India’s drug industry reputation will continue to decline, and eventually their exports will follow suit.
1. The vast majority of data in our paper (roughly 85%-90%) are a meta-analysis of previously peer reviewed studies in the scientific/medical literature as well as the socio-economic literature (see the peer review section in media tab of this web site for these papers). This is why some of the data may appear old. It was only when enough data had been collected did the authors of this paper start to notice the problem with Indian exports to Africa – no original study targeted Indian medicines.
2. We did not name the companies due to concerns about litigation, which have proven correct given the alarming response from India’s industry (see point 3.).
3. When samples were originally collected and tested, numerous attempts were made to contact Indian companies to ask about problems with quality, yet only one company, VS International, responding to a request to confirm fakes of its ciprofloxacin on sale in Nigeria, provided any useful information. Most never bothered to reply, and those that did refused to provide any information since we were not regulators or trading partners. This means it is impossible to be 100% certain of a product’s provenance and hence another reason not to name the companies, since albeit unlikely, it is possible they are not responsible for failing products.
4. NBER is one of the most respected research associations in the world. To be able to post a working paper requires one to be a member. Indian companies may be unaware that it is typical within the economic literature for working papers to be posted and then for peer review to take place. This is a process the same authors have followed before. All previous working papers have resulted in peer review publications and while the contents change in subtle ways due to review, the conclusions have remained consistent. Scientific/medical publications tend to have faster peer review and hence fewer working papers promoted as widely.