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AP drug makers major polluters

September 03, 2007 11:18 IST

Close on the heels of allegations that India's weak patent laws deter big pharmaceutical companies of the West from investing in India, a study by a Swedish University has accused India's Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) manufacturers of causing alarming levels of environmental pollution and threatening the region's flora and fauna. 

A recent study by a team of scientists from Goteborg University, the largest in the Scandinavian region, has detected the presence of 59 pharmaceuticals, including 21 drugs, in effluent samples taken from a wastewater treatment plant serving bulk drug manufacturers in Patancheru near Hyderabad.

These above-permissible levels of several broad-spectrum antibiotics seen in effluents could damage the local environment and prove hazardous to living organisms in water, including fish, the study pointed out.

The study led by Joakim Larsson, associate professor and director of the research team, was conducted with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and local authorities.

The study, which was first published in the July edition of 'Journal of Hazardous Materials,' a non-pharma industry publication, found very high levels of drugs such as ciprofloxacin, iosartan, cetrizine, metoprolol, enrofloxacin citalopram, norfloxacin and llmefloxacin in the samples.

Some of the popular US and European pharmaceutical industry magazines had highlighted the findings as an international issue, since India was a major supplier of APIs to the West.

Hyderabad accounts for half of the bulk drug production in India, which is now the third largest supplier of APIs to the world pharmaceutical market.

According to a study by Italy's Chemical Pharmaceutical Generic Association (CPA), India is set to displace Italy as the second largest API manufacturer by 2010, next to China, with production worth $4.8 billion.

"These allegations are part of conscious ongoing work by some NGOs and other interested parties to tarnish the image of Hyderabad as India's bulk drug manufacturing hub," commented N Narayana Reddy, president of Bulk Drug Manufacturers Association (BDMA)and MD , Hyderabad-based Virchow Laboratories.

 Following a Supreme Court order a few years ago, we had upgraded our facilities and some units were relocated. But the State Pollution Control Board (PCB) is insisting on more stringent norms, which is difficult to implement. We need to verify the authenticity of such studies and reports," commented N Narayana Reddy, president of Bulk Drug Manufacturers Association (BDMA), and managing director of Hyderabad-based Virchow Laboratories.

Hyderabad has more than 90 bulk drug manufacturing units, with about half of them located in and around Patancheru.

P B Jayakumar in Mumbai