Chennai: Vannakam and good morning. First, let me congratulate the Christian Medical Association of India for hosting today’s seminar with the support of the U.S. Embassy New Delhi. I am honored to join the distinguished guests on the dais this morning.
The U.S. Embassy has provided support for this seminar because we share your commitment to providing safe public health programs. A healthy population is a critical component to a healthy economy. And health care workers must be fully educated and trained with adequate resources. There is no other way.
We are pleased to partner with CMAI to help achieve this goal with today’s workshop and with a second workshop to be held in Bengaluru in the coming months. Let me take a moment to say how pleased I am to meet CMAI General Secretary Dr. Bimal Charles who worked as a member of the Center for Disease Control staff at the U.S. Consulate General Chennai for a number of years. I can see we were lucky to have him as long as we did.
The issues to be addressed today are considerable. Substandard, falsely labeled, or counterfeit medical products can result in treatment failure, health hazards and possibly death. I am encouraged by the wide range of participants gathered today to learn more about how to face these issues: doctors, nurses, and counselors, pharmacists and representatives from the biotechnology and insurance sectors. Each of you has an important role to play in this effort.
And each of you will leave today better equipped to understand and to share your knowledge of safe medicine. Please, make this workshop go even further by speaking to your health care and professional colleagues, your patients, your clients, and others about the importance of safe medicine.
All of you see firsthand the impact of counterfeit drugs and the risk to patients. Counterfeit medications may contain incorrect ingredients, improper dosages of the correct ingredients, or they may contain hazardous ingredients. Counterfeit drugs may also contain toxic substances that can kill and have been linked to increasing drug resistance to deadly infectious diseases, including malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
Safe medicine is a global issue. Allow me to take a moment to address the changing international context of this issue. The expansion of the marketplace — across Tamil Nadu, India, Asia, and the world — opens new opportunities for all. But it hasn’t changed the age-old dangers in any marketplace. There are good and honorable players who create new medicines and manufacture and distribute them in a safe and proper manner for the good of all. And then there are scam artists and counterfeiters hawking their wares online and in stores, and buyers must always beware.
The menace these quick-buck artists pose in the medical marketplace, however, reaches far beyond one buyer. Spurious or falsified medicines can hurt, and do kill. When these drugs reach the unsuspecting patients through trusted health care providers, the danger multiplies, leaving both medical professionals and patients at a loss to explain such failures.
The world faces new challenges in ensuring that safe medicines are made available to the public. For this reason, almost ten years ago in 2006, the World Health Organization declared counterfeit medicines a global public health crisis.
As suppliers of medicines increasingly market their products to distant corners of India and beyond, we have to use a multi-pronged approach to ensure the safe production and consumption of medical products.
U.S. and India partnership and shared interests
So how are the United States and India working together to address this? We are both major manufacturers, suppliers, and consumers of a huge range of medicines. There is no doubt that we must and will continue working hand in hand for the benefit of Americans, Indians, and other global consumers of our products, for the research and development as well as affordable access to the best and safest medicines available.
First, the U.S. Government is already working hard to support the Government of India’s call to “Make in India.” We see important opportunities for U.S. companies and U.S. consumers alike in an incredible range of manufacturing-based and service-oriented fields.
India is a significant exporter of generic drugs to the United States. Without a doubt, the American people benefit tremendously from generic drugs, as more and more generic medications reduce costs for patients, and the American healthcare system.
The rise of India’s pharmaceutical star is one of the reasons why two very senior officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration visited a number of Indian cities recently.
The bottom line that these senior officials heard from regulators and industry leaders is that India is committed to producing the highest quality of drugs possible. And this is no surprise. You are committed to this because the Indian people deserve and need the best medicines possible. Nobody benefits more from high quality, affordable drugs than the little girl with pneumonia in Rajasthan or the elderly woman in Madurai fighting off diabetes, and all the people across this vast and beautiful land.
The United States is also committed to the research, development, and manufacture of the highest quality medicines for the benefit of Americans and the world’s populations. We are fortunate to have cutting edge research and products being developed everyday in U.S. companies. Safe medicines are built upon this research. It is this development that tells us which ingredients work and in what doses. Without the risks and many failures before each success, we won’t find the next generation of best drugs.
The United States will continue to work through the High Level Working Group on Intellectual Property and other fora to ensure safeguards for the massive research and development costs that go into our cutting edge products. We will also continue to seek consistent access for U.S. medicines to Indian markets.
The enormous public health and commercial implications compel us to adopt a multi-disciplinary approach to ensuring the safe medicines that Indian customers expect and deserve.
Together, America and India can and are helping our people and the world have access to the best and safest medicines science makes possible.
Whether you are a physician prescribing a medicine, a pharmacist procuring and distributing it or a nurse administering the medicine, everyone in this room has an important role in these efforts. And your roles will constantly evolve in tandem with the rapidly changing nature of medicines themselves. This makes seminars such as today’s all the more important to keep all of you informed.
Perhaps the best possible result from today would be new and renewed connections, refreshed skills, and reenergizing each of you, the foot-soldiers in the world of healthcare. We want to arm you with the skills and knowledge to detect counterfeit drug products, to deter their use, and to protect your patients.
Challenges are best met by bringing the brightest minds together for collaboration and brainstorming solutions. Here you all are. I know solutions will follow as you continue your conversations well beyond these walls and this day.
We are pleased to support CMAI, each of you, and the Government of India as we work together to research, develop, manufacture, and supply safe, affordable, and accessible medicine for all.
I thank you once again for including me today and giving me the opportunity to discuss the challenges we face together in ensuring safe medicine.