US ban on Ranbaxy drugs forces patients to ask for alternatives

Mumbai: The US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) on Thursday banned Ranbaxy's India-based plants from manufacturing and distributing active pharmaceutical ingredients. The move has renewed fears among the Indian medical fraternity about prescribing Ranbaxy drugs, especially after patients expressed their lack of confidence in the pharma company.

Bomi Bhote, CEO, Ruby Hall Clinic said that such a halt on imports by US would not affect Indian hospitals in any manner. "The standards of US agencies and Indian licensing authorities are different. We don't know on which grounds the US has banned the imports. So unless the Indian FDA or similar authority reacts, I doubt that Indian hospitals would reconsider their current practices in any manner."

Jaslok Hospital on Peddar Road boycotted Ranbaxy drugs nine months ago.

Sunil Khilnani, 58, has been suffering from high cholesterol and blood pressure. He has been on Ranbaxy hypolipidemic drugs which are cholesterol-reducing agents for the past few years. After the USFDA's decision, he asked the doctor to change the drugs.

Dr Jamshed Dalal, senior cardiologist at the privately-run Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, said 10 per cent of his patients, who were on cardiovascular drugs, asked for a change in brand after the USFDA-Ranbaxy controversy. "The medical fraternity needs specific guidelines from the Indian government to take an informed decision given the gravity of the issue," he said.

Ranbaxy has major presence in Indian and international markets in relation to cardiovascular, pain management, gastrointestinal, respiratory, dermatology, orthopaedic and urology drugs.

Jaslok Hospital has banned the sale of Ranbaxy drugs in the hospital pharmacy. "We have decided not to include the drugs in our pharmacy. Our board of trustees have decided against using Ranbaxy drugs in the hospital. It is not affecting patients in any way as alternative brands are available," said Dr Tarang Gianchandani, CEO, Jaslok Hospital.

In India, there have been several incidents of drugs turning out to be substandard after their sampling was done in laboratories.

According to statistics by the Central Drug Standard Control Organisation, of the 1.37 lakh drug samples collected between 2009 and 2012, 6,500 drugs were of substandard quality.

After the earlier three plants of Ranbaxy in Paonta Sahib, Mohali and Dewas were banned by USFDA, the company sent out a list of drugs being manufactured there - which have been banned - to doctors across India.

"In orthopaedic medicine, there are five major pharma players - Sun Pharma, Cipla, Lupin, Ranbaxy and Wockhardt. I have been hesitant in prescribing Ranbaxy and Wockhardt because of the controversies surrounding their manufacturing practices. I rely on alternatives which are equally good and cost the same to ensure that patients are not inconvenienced," said Dr Shreedhar Archik, orthopaedic surgeon at Lilavati Hospital.

The doctors have urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorities in India to be more proactive in issuing guidelines as Ranbaxy plants supply medicines internationally and domestically.

"The Indian FDA authorities should be in a position to judge the issue after conducting a probe. More details about substandard drugs should be made available to doctors with national recommendations to make an informed decision," said Dr Anil Pachnekar, president, Indian Medical Association, Maharashtra.

Credit:Maitri Porecha