What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?

Once a super metro, now the origin of the latest super bug. Will India’s capital city ever be able to go beyond the New Delhi Metallo ß lactamase -1 (NDM-1) tag? It will be a pity if it does not. The silver lining to the now oft-quoted epidemiological study carried in the September issue of The Lancet is that its been a wake up call. Dr V M Katoch, Secretary, Health Research, in India’s Health Ministry has already announced that the government will soon come out with its policy on antibiotic use, based on recommendations from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

The awareness generated by high-decibel TV debates has to translate into strictly enforced policy changes, mandating more rigid Rx control, tighter guidelines for antibiotic use which are periodically reviewed, etc. Observers point out that hospitals are supposed to maintain a record of all infections but they are wary of doing so for obvious reasons. We the lay public are also at fault for self-medicating in the search for quick-fix solutions: we’ve all been guilty, at some time or the other, of popping an antibiotic and getting back on the job. The fact that its relatively easy to buy antibiotics over the counter in India only compounds the situation.

The fact that the study was partly funded by an MNC pharma company adds another angle: that of super bugs spawning super drugs. Or is it the other way around?! This just added to the war of words between domestic pharma companies and their MNC counterparts, which is slated to reach another crescendo soon. The Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers in India (OPPI) recently presented a note to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), suggesting ‘tweaks’ to certain sections of the Indian Patents Act. Once again words weigh heavy, and the note seeks a redefining of certain terms like ‘efficacy criteria.’ Do read the cover story in the Management Section of this issue, (“The DP/ DE Deadlock: when can we move towards a resolution?’) for different perspectives on this debate. As we deliberate FTAs with the EU and President Obama schedules a visit to india in November, will our policy makers (like Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad who has spoken against patents beyond 20 years) be able to hold their ground?

I leave the last word to Dr Pipasha Biswas, Principal Consultant & Director, Symogen, UK whose article in the August 1-15 issue of Express Pharma, titled ‘Rational use of medicine and its implication to pharmacovigilance in India’ has been getting many hits on our website in the past few days. As she says, “It does not matter where NDM-1 has originated but at the end of the day, it will mean people suffering because of the disease process and increased cost of treatment for poor and middle class people.”

Viveka Roychowdhury