Chronic adhocism

The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), the top job in the country's drug regulatory space, remains mired in a legal mesh and steeped in chronic adhocism at a time when the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, better known as DCGI's office, has turned into an eye of a storm triggered by a parliamentary panel report. The report hurls serious accusations at the DCGI office, stating some officials over the years have been colluding with pharma companies and doctors or 'medical experts' to ensure unhindered approval of new drugs that companies wish to market.

The three-month term of Gyanendra Nath Singh, who was given the additional charge of DCGI in February this year along with his current responsibility as secretary-cum-scientific director of the Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission, ended on May 21 and, though he continued to look after day-to-day work, an official order renewing his extension only came on Wednesday (May 30), albeit with retrospective effect from last Monday (May 21).

For seven months now, since the former DCGI Surinder Singh relinquished office, the country has had a stop-gap arrangement for the top position in the central drug regulator's office. The health ministry's endeavour to appoint a DCGI for the country through a UPSC selection process has run into litigation. GN Singh was the preferred choice of a UPSC panel for the drug regulator's post but multiple litigations scuttled his regular appointment.

This neglect of the DCGI office, which holds significant sway over the R60,000-crore domestic drug market, may come as a surprise to many but is hardly new. Barring a three-and-half-year-old stint of Surinder Singh from April 2008 to October 2011, the country has not had a 'permanent' DCGI for almost a decade since 1999. During 1999-2008, two successive DCGIs, Ashwini Kumar and Venkateswarlu, held additional charge of this key post. This current phase of uncertainty is a reflection of the historical adhocism and the utter neglect that this office has been subjected to for a long time.

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