Refuting the protests by the exporters for use of bar-code, Rahul Khullar, Commerce Secretary emphasised the reasons why it should be rolled out immediately. "There is an urgent need to roll out track and trace bar-coding technology in the Indian pharmaceutical sector, which will not only help boost exports but also assure buyers in the country that the drugs they are buying are top-quality", he said.
"Certification can help vouch for quality of goods being traded, which allows markets to function effectively and bar-coding provides that critical certificate," Khullar said at a conference-cum-exposition on "Track and Trace Bar-Coding Technology for Pharmaceuticals" organized by the PHD Chamber in New Delhi.
Citing the three main reasons for its importance, he said, the first one is safety. "We have to be able to assure buyers (within the country and abroad) that the medicines they are buying are world-class; introduction of bar-coding can ensure genuineness of the product," he said.
Also, in a country like India, medicines have to be affordable. "We have been able to ensure that. But since medicines are cheap, it is also easy and cheap to imitate them. So, it is important to ensure that not only are drugs cheap, but they are also genuine," Khullar added.
India currently exports over USD 9 billion of drugs. The government wants to increase that figure manifold in the next few years. There is a big market for generics in the developed world. But the only way Indian pharma can tap the market is by ensuring quality. "Bar-coding will ensure quality and protect our reputation," the Commerce Secretary said.
Admitting that enforcement of legislation to check counterfeiting was tough, Khullar said track and trace bar-coding will make even ordinary buyers "enforcers". "A customer can buy a drug, SMS the bar code on the pack to the manufacturer and instantly know if the drug is genuine," he explained.
Khullar also urged the pharma industry, which "has a huge social responsibility", to adopt the bar-coding technology voluntarily.