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FDA to boost India staff overseeing drug imports

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 21, 2014 at 3:22 pm •  Published: February 21, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the Food and Drug Administration said Friday that her agency will add more inspectors in India to better monitor drugs from the country's burgeoning pharmaceutical industry, even as her agency also seeks closer cooperation from Indian regulators.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the FDA will expand to 19 staffers in India from its current 12, as the U.S. tries to assure the safety of medications from companies like Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. and Wockhardt Ltd. Hamburg spoke with reporters following an eight-day trip to the Southeast Asian nation, where she met with Indian health regulators and drug industry executives.

With sales of more than $26 billion, India's burgeoning drug sector has grown into the U.S.'s second-largest supplier of prescription and over-the-counter medications, behind only Canada.

But that growth has come with increased scrutiny. And in recent years the FDA has issued a stream of warnings letters and import bans to some of India's largest drugmakers over manufacturing and quality control problems.

The capstone of Hamburg's visit was a "statement of intent" agreement between the U.S. and India, in which both parties pledged to cooperate on safety and quality inspections. Under the non-binding agreement, Indian inspectors will be able to shadow their FDA counterparts as they inspect factories in India. The document is supposed to cover a 5-year preliminary period, though it's unclear how or when it might lead to more formal requirements.

Hamburg suggested during a press teleconference that India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare needs to become more engaged in regulation on both a domestic and international scale.

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