CRI Kasauli not a lost cause


By: Dr RK Sood

Suspension of drug manufacturing license of CRI Kasauli and the move to convert it into a testing lab seems to be yet another attempt to felicitate privatization in the sector. The government’s policies to support globalisation have come as a major setback to domestic institutions, and CRI Kasauli is no exception.

The CRI holds special place in the nation’s medical research history. This prestigious institution had celebrated its 100 years of service in 2006. Since its inception, it indulged in high-level research in the field of vaccines and medicines. The institute has been famous for production of anti-sanke venom medicine, anti-rabies injection, anti-tetanus vaccine, yellow fever vaccine, Japanese encephalitis and many other important medicines. On January 24, the Drug Controller of Himachal Pradesh issued an order to stop production of medicines in the institute saying that he had received a letter from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) with information that the production license of CRI has been suspended. It is obvious that now the huge market of vaccines of DPT, typhoid and yellow fever, etc in the country would fall in the hands of MNCs.

I came to learn through personal communication with a senior staff of CRI that tissue culture vaccine production was coming up soon at the institute. If CRI was allowed to come up with this vaccine, the price of anti-rabies vaccine in the market would have come down drastically. Who knows, toppling the CRI could be a conspiracy by MNCs and influential drug companies to retain their market monopoly.

The licensing authority had raised questions on the basic infrastructure at CRI and had observed that it was not up to the mark as per good manufacturing practice (GMP). However, there is nothing wrong with the vaccines themselves.
It is learnt that the institute had already urged the Centre to provide at least Rs 35 crore for upgrading the lab, which possibly fell on deaf ears. So, who is the guinea pig to blame for the decay of these institutes? All said and done, rather than playing the blame game, it would be better if the government makes efforts to revive the institute to ensured self-sufficiency in vaccine manufacturing in the country.

Killing the public sector is not the way out to take the country on the path of development. There is lot of talent in these institutions. It is sheer lack of political will, adequate infrastructure and inappropriate environment that causes these institutions to rot. Neglecting the public sector leads to brain drain, and the talent in these institutions slowly move abroad after experiencing frustration in the system. The scientists who will leave these institutes on account of this dilly dallying will definitely find a better career in MNCs and abroad.

Let us all petition the government to commit resources for the research institutes that has been safeguarding our health for over a century. Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, HP, has warned the government to realize the gravity of the situation at this juncture. The government should constitute a high-powered committee with adequate financial powers and expertise to ensure that GMP norms are met by the institutes and licensing is granted within three months.

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