Going beyond cosmetic changes

new-viveka-100x100The 40 odd transfers of drug inspectors/ technical officers that followed Dr Eswara Reddy’s appointment as DCG(I) have not impressed industry veterans like Dr Ajit Dangi of Danssen Consulting. Responding to my previous editorial (http://www.expressbpd.com/pharma/editors-note/a-spring-cleaning-at-the-cdsco/398184/), he terms the transfers as ‘cosmetic changes’ and asks for ‘systemic and structural changes.’

Every organisation has black sheep and the CDSCO is no different. Are the new DCGI and his office willing to take a few hard decisions and weed out these officers? Merely transferring them could spread the rot, demoralising and demonising the rest of the CDSCO cadre for no reason.

No doubt, some damage control has started. Dr Reddy started his career more than two decades back, as a Drugs Inspector in CDSCO, West Zone, Mumbai, a zonal office which has been in the news for the wrong reasons. A news clipping which went viral on social media, gives details of the tug of war between two deputy drug controllers, R Chandrashekhar and Dr A Ramkishan. Given the volume of business handled by this zonal office, the CDSCO thought fit to appoint an additional deputy drug controller but this strategy seems to have aggravated the problem. The two officers grew into parallel power centres in the zonal office. The news clip gives gory details of a fisticuffs between the two officials, allegedly over shares in bribe money from pharma companies.

While the two officers have been transferred (Chandrashekar to Goa and Ramkishan to Kolkata), the problem could flare up once more, as once again, two officers of similar rank from the CDSCO Headquarters (PBN Prasad, who has been designated as administrative head and takes over Chandrashekhar’s work and Rubina Bose, who will handle Ramkishan’s duties) have been transferred to the West Zone office. This is clearly  a recipe for another disaster. Observers point out that the extra load of work did not need a second deputy drug controller but a larger staff under a single deputy drug controller. We will have to wait and watch for further developments.

Elsewhere too, there are observations that deserve some thought from senior policy makers as they deliberate on replacements for the DGHS and other such high level posts. Dr Amar Jesani, one of the founders of the Forum for Medical Ethics Society and its journal, Indian Journal of Medical Ethics hails the sacking of the DGHS but makes the point that the position needs a doctor with excellent public health credentials and not clinicians.

The Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Healthcare (ADEH) and the All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN) criticised the decision to shift the NPPA chief before his two year term was up. The ADEH suspects that the ”government succumbed to the pressure of the corporate hospitals and pharma lobby” and “fears that the transfer will affect the momentum gained in curbing exorbitant prices of drugs and devices and hence is against the interest of general public and millions of poor patients.” In fact, AIDAN’s statement points out that Singh’s predecessor, Injeti Srinivas, was transferred even before he completed a year, after he regulated the prices of cardiac and diabetes medicines via the DPCO.

Not many believe that this reappointment, without appointing a new NPPA chief, was part of a reshuffle of senior civil servants. Does the transfer of the NPPA chief signal a change in stance of the government, given the roll out of the National Health Protection Scheme and the key role of the corporate sector in the scheme? Only time will tell.

Viveka Roychowdhury
Editor

viveka.r@expressindia.com