Recently we reported that Parliament Standing committee had spotted irregularities in the operations of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization. Turns out the CDSCO is facing a severe staff shortage and the headquarters is staffed by four deputy Dis and five assistant drug controllers. These nine officers alone handle 20,000 applications, over 200 meetings, attend to 11,000 public/industry representatives, respond to 700 Parliament questions and around 150 court cases annually.
The committee observed that out 327 sanctioned posts only 124 were occupied. It notes with serious concern that “CDSCO is substantially under-staffed. Of the 327 sanctioned posts, only 124 are occupied. At this rate, what would be the fate of 1,045 additional posts that have been proposed is a moot point.”
What this means is that the country’s leading body for drug regulation, which is responsible for laying down the standards of drugs, cosmetics, diagnostics, devices and regulatory measures, estimates that the nation requires 3,200 DIs for its six lakh chemists. No wonder drugs are being approved without clinical trials putting the masses at risk!
There are only 900 DIs for the country’s 1.2 billion population. This creates an extremely precarious condition considering India is the world’s leading producer of generic drugs. The compulsory license verdict could have opened up a can of worms instead of being the panacea for all illness considering
And, the nation’s drug exports is expected to rise from Rs 420 bn to Rs 2000 bn over the next five years. The size of the medical devices industry would be Rs 1000 bn.
The report says, “If the manpower requirement of the CDSCO does not correspond with their volume of work, naturally, such shortage of staff strains the ability of the CDSCO to discharge its assigned functions efficiently. This shortcoming needs to be addressed quickly. Consideration can also be given to employ medically qualified persons as consultants/advisers at suitable rank.”
The Union Health secretary has informed the committee that this serious supply and demand situation was created due to the fact that medical professionals don’ want to join the CDSCO. “Though recruitment rules provide for appointing people with MBBS degree or/with pharmacology, microbiology, usually, there was no response from persons from these fields.”
The Union health ministry says it has already started filling 203 vacant posts in CDSCO through Union Public Service Commission. This includes two posts of joint drug controllers, five deputy drug controllers, 16 assistant drug controllers, 100 drug inspectors and 31 assistant drug inspectors.
In recent times the health ministry has been stumbling from one blunder to another.
Health Ministry under-fire
The health ministry has been under fire in recent weeks for gross irregularities. Earlier, NACO was rapped for lapses in dispensation of HIV drugs, the health minister’s plans to plug the brain drain by keeping medical students grounded was widely castigated, the country’s top medical institution, AIIMS is severely understaffed and the BJP moved a privilege motion against the health minister Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad for allegedly misleading the parliament. To add to that the health minister’s compulsory three year rural service propsal for medical students has been met with a lot of criticism from the medical community.