The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pep talk for PSU pharma units

New Delhi, Nov. 29: The Standing Committee on Petroleum & Chemicals has recommended that sick pharmaceutical PSUs be revived to produce generic drugs for the poor.

Apparently, these drugs, which were once the preserve of pharma PSUs, are not made by the private sector drug companies because they are either uneconomical or dated.

However, the government spends a huge amount of foreign exchange on the import of these medicines given that the reservation of the public sector has been totally abolished.

The committee feels that the government should compare the amount being spent on the import of the medicines that could be produced by pharma PSUs every year and the amount needed to revive these units.

The committee has recommended that the government should come out with concrete proposals to revive these companies in the shortest possible time.

For this the committee had earmarked PSUs like Indian Drug and Pharmaceuticals Limited (IDPL), Hindustan Antibiotics Limited (HAL), and three West Bengal-based units —Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals (BCPL), Bengal Immunity Limited (BIL) and Smith Stainstreet Pharmaceuticals Limited (SSPL).

The government had submitted the details pertaining to the above mentioned PSUs to the committee which includes measures like cleaning up the balance sheet of IDPL to facilitate its privatisation and revival packages for HAL and BCPL, the committee has expressed that it finds no justification in keeping all the proposals relating to these companies pending for very long periods.

Amit Sengupta. public health practitioner and member of the Delhi Science Forum, feels that there has been several attempts to revive sick pharma sector PSUs. “But going by past records, one wonders if anything will happen,” he said. However the revival of sick pharma PSUs is a much wider issue that needs deliberation of several aspects to make them viable, he said.

“Pharma PSUs can play a crucial role in stabilising price and can be focused entities for production in priority areas and areas where the private sector is not active due to low profitability, one example of which is a disease like kala azar,” said Sen.

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