New Delhi, Jan 21 (PTI) Noting that the healthcare products industry is one of the most common targets for counterfeiters, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said 'vocal for local' will be an extremely potent tool in India's fight against illicit trade.
Vardhan, who inaugurated the 7th edition of 'MASCRADE -- Movement against Smuggled and Counterfeit Trade' organised by the FICCI Cascade, said businesses and industries must come together and partner with the government in becoming a greater force in the fight against this growing threat, with the ultimate goal of keeping consumers safe.
Speaking on the benefits of a self-reliant India, Vardhan said as the country starts to produce strong domestic brands and gradually reduces its dependence on foreign products, avenues for profiteering by smugglers and counterfeits will soon become limited.
'Vocal for local will be an extremely potent tool in our fight against illicit trade,' he said.
'Illegal operators are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing illicit alternatives of essential and non-essential items both online and offline. The pandemic has sadly illustrated that healthcare products will continue to be one of the most commonly-targeted industries for counterfeiters. This is a problem that impacts patients and consumers across the globe,' the minister said.
He said amid the chaos created by COVID-19, illicit players have used the pandemic for their nefarious activities, causing significant damage to the economy of the nation and the health and safety of people worldwide.
Vardhan said various technologies like barcodes, holograms, radio-frequency devices are available to protect consumers.
'These technologies although provide considerable protection, they have certain limitations. They only help in general detection and authentication,' the minister said.
He said the methods by which spurious, misbranded and adulterated drugs enter the distribution channel have become increasingly complex.
'Weak points in the distribution processes of pharmaceutical products provide an avenue for the entry of such products in the supply chain. This is an issue where industry players can play an active role to help identify and plug these loopholes.
'There is an urgent need for our citizens to better understand the difference between fake and original goods. We need to highlight the fact that smuggling, counterfeit trade and piracy hold back progress, the health of the economy, raise the cost of goods, lead to tax evasion, hamper job creation and create safety hazards for consumers. From the economic point of view the world seems to have changed as the reset button has been pressed,' Vardhan said.
More inter-governmental efforts and public private alliances are needed in identifying approaches needed for the development of a holistic strategy, he added.
Applauding the efforts taken by the government to check the menace of spurious drugs, the minister pointed out that the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 was amended in 2008. Under the amended Act, if any drug is deemed to be adulterated or spurious, the offender or liable person may face a jail term which shall not be less than 10 years and may extend to imprisonment for life.
'Special courts for the trial of offences under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act for a speedy disposal of cases have been established. With a well-developed legal framework and significant education efforts, the government has taken steps to protect consumers' health and safety from dangerous counterfeiting and smuggling,' he said.
Highlighting the areas that need attention, Vardhan said reviewing current regulations related to smuggling, counterfeiting and piracy, using latest technology to aid security forces and enforcement agencies, raising the penalties for those committing these crimes and allocation of more financial and human resources to counter these activities are some areas where adequate thrust can be given.
The aim of MASCRADE 2021 is to foster a healthy discussion on newer and practical strategies to mitigate the challenges of counterfeiting and smuggling, especially in a post-COVID era, he said.
'Chief among them should be a focus on generating awareness. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented demands on our health system. Healthcare providers are reinventing the existing delivery models to bring healthcare closer to the patient,' Vardhan said.
The health minister applauded the efforts of the FICCI MASCRADE and said, 'I greatly appreciate FICCI MASCRADE for recognising the work of the law enforcement agencies and felicitating the best-performing officers each year for their outstanding achievement in the prevention of counterfeiting and smuggling, and enforcement of anti-smuggling and anti-counterfeiting laws.' PTI UZM/PLB AAR RC