India cancels licences of some drug firms in crackdown on fake products, says source

Used blister packets that contained medicines, tablets and pills are seen, in this picture illustration
Used blister packets that contained medicines, tablets and pills are seen, in this picture illustration taken June 30, 2018. REUTERS/Russell Boyce/Illustration

NEW DELHI, March 30 (Reuters) - Indian authorities have cancelled or suspended licences of some domestic drug companies as part of action taken against 76 pharmaceutical firms this month for selling adulterated or fake products, a government source said on Thursday.

India is known as the 'pharmacy of the world' and its pharmaceuticals exports have more than doubled over the past decade to $24.5 billion in 2021-22.

But that image has been dented by the death of at least 70 children in Gambia and 19 children in Uzbekistan last year linked to drugs made by India-based pharmaceutical companies.

Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya confirmed a crackdown but did not give details of companies against which action had been taken.

"There are more than 10,500 pharma companies in the country. Companies who make spurious medicine will not be spared," Mandaviya told reporters at an event.

Licences of some Indian drug companies have been canceled, some were suspended while others have been put on notice during the past 15 days, the source, who had direct knowledge of the matter, told Reuters.

The source, who did not want to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to the media, declined to reveal the names of the companies.

The federal government has said it will spend $79.6 million on strengthening its drug regulatory system after the World Health Organization raised concerns about domestically produced cough syrups being linked to the death of children in Gambia and Uzbekistan.

Writing by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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As the breaking news editor for South Asia, Krishna leads a team of reporters in the region covering everything from political and general news to economic and financial news. He also closely tracks India’s health industry and all things Bangladesh. He was a member of teams that won the Society of Publishers in Asia awards in 2017 and 2018 for Reuters coverage of the Bangladesh Bank heist and the Rohingya refugee crisis. He served as Malaysia bureau chief in 2019/20 before returning home. Krishna earlier led India’s political and general news team.